Virginia State Police dedicates aviation hangar in memory of H. Jay Cullen
Close to 200 family, friends and colleagues gathered Wednesday (Feb. 7, 2018) at the Virginia State Police Chesterfield Aviation Base to honor the life and sacrifice of Lt. H. Jay Cullen III. Cullen and his co-pilot, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, became the Department’s 64th and 65th Virginia State Police line of duty deaths when their helicopter crashed Aug. 12, 2017, in Albemarle County.
Former Governor Terry McAuliffe and former First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe attended the ceremony, during which the state police officially dedicated and renamed the hangar to the “Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen Hangar.” Cullen spent 18 of his 24 years with the Virginia State Police assigned to the Department’s Aviation Unit. When he was promoted to sergeant in 2005, he reported to the Chesterfield Aviation Base and remained at that facility as he advanced through the ranks to become the unit commander.
“Lt. Cullen had one goal as the Aviation Unit Commander and that was to make the unit the best it could possibly be,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “And he succeeded through his exemplary leadership, professionalism, integrity and fortitude. Dedicating his name to this Chesterfield Aviation Base hangar is just one more way for the Department to demonstrate its sincere appreciation for the sacrifices Jay and his family have made all these years in order to support and fulfill the missions of the Aviation Unit and Virginia State Police.”
State police initiated an aviation program in 1946 with four trooper-pilots who voluntarily worked on as an-needed basis and the acquisition of three Aeronca Chief 11AC airplanes. Helicopters were added to the fleet in 1970. The Department established an official Aviation Unit in 1984, which was the same year the Virginia General Assembly authorized funding for the creation of the Med-Flight program. Today the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit has 16 trooper-pilots, 13 flight nurses, 12 flight paramedics and four full and part-time mechanics assigned to its bases in Chesterfield, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The unit is equipped with three Bell 407 helicopters, two Airbus EC-145 helicopters, two Cessna 182 Skylanes and one Cessna 206 Stationair.
In March, the Department will dedicate and name its helipad at the Virginia State Police Administrative Headquarters in Chesterfield County to honor and pay tribute to Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the fatal helicopter crash remains ongoing at this time.