About that mystery helicopter in the Bundy Cattle Confiscation…

David Codrea had an article in The Examiner over the weekend about the FAA issuing what’s called a TFR for the Gold Butte area. A TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) is basically a domestic no fly zone, and are usually limited to things like disaster zones, Presidential/Vice Presidential visits, and rocketry. I don’t know of another law enforcement action that needed a TFR but I could be wrong.

In his article, he mentions this picture from the Las Vegas Review Journal (no link because copyright trolls), and how that tail number is not in the FAA Registry.

He’s right. You can look it up yourself if you’d like. There is no aircraft registered as N806IJ.

Now, there’s this other thing that the FAA allows you to do. You can download the entire FAA Registration Database as a zip file of CSVs. It takes a little bit of translation, but what if you open that guy up you can see that there are about 1500 Robinson R44s registered.

My coblogger oddball said “That 8 is obviously a painted 2” so I narrowed down to R44s that started with a 2, and guess what I found?

N206TJ, registered to Rugged Country Helicopters, LLC, based in Cedar City, UT.

Cedar City, UT, is about 150 miles from the Bundy Ranch. The range of an R44 is 350 miles without refueling.

So, there’s that.

They don’t have a web presence that I can find, but I’m sure someone with more time could call them and ask them if that’s their bird.

5 comments to About that mystery helicopter in the Bundy Cattle Confiscation…

  • It also looks like the 6 in the reg# was also painted to look like another 8

  • MattCFII

    A few other interesting things. It’s only history on Flight Aware is from 2004 on a flight across Michigan and is listed as a Bell Jet Ranger. It is listed as a Rugged Country Helicopters ownership, but I don’t know if that data was tagged to it in 2004 for or is taken from the current data since I looked it up today. Since the R44 N206TJ is an 2006, it is safe to say it wasn’t the helicopter that took that flight. I’m running out of time but somebody should search for previous N206TJ aircraft register which you can do IIRC, I’ll post back here if I get to it before anybody else does.

    Also there is a Google books page of an 2007 Aero trader with the R44 for sale with unmolested N number of N206TJ

    Forming anonymous LLCs is common for aircraft owners to help limit liability and with taxes but that also means that it is easy to hide ownership, like in Rugged Country Helicopters’ case. It could just as easily be somebody’s personal helicopter as it could be a shadowy government agency.

    • I think I came across some info that the N-number had been reassigned, and the Bell Jet Ranger got a new one. I also found some tenuous links between Rugged Country Helicopters and a couple other companies, but nothing I’d be comfortable publicizing. It could just be that they used the same small town lawyer to set up their LLCs.

  • MattCFII

    Looked and there was a Jet Ranger previously registered as N206TJ that changed tail numbers in 2005. So that flight history on FlightAware is definitely a different aircraft registered to a different entity.

    I also want to point out that no flight history in FlightAware can be strange but it could be explained by it being blocked from public (which you can request as a private entity, not just government) or it could just be that it is in a very low density of controlled airspace area which means would not show up on FlightAware since they wouldn’t need to talk to ATC in that area. The closest controlled field is in Las Vegas around 130nm away.

    There is also a Delaware corporation founded in 2007 named N206TJ, Inc. Could be nothing related to the R44, but I mention because the linked article also links to a place trying to hunt down a potential FBI helicopter that is registered in Delaware. Overall, pretty thin and might be making something out of nothing.

    I can’t find info on the circumstances of the photo, is there any chance that it is the other way around and somebody trying to duck the TFR with modifying the N number? Either way the N number hack was pretty poor.

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