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2 Pilots Held in Airspace Violation Over N.Y.

July 07, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Two pilots whose low-flying jaunt through restricted airspace spurred fears of a possible Fourth of July terrorist attack were arrested at a New Jersey airport, police said.

Pilots Andre Morais and Daniel Oliveria were picked up by Wall Township police Saturday after each landed at Monmouth Executive Airport.

They were returning from a day of flying planes with advertising banners attached, according to the Queens district attorney's office.

The men were being held in New Jersey on charges of reckless endangerment filed Friday by Queens Dist. Atty. Richard Brown. The DA's office was seeking to extradite them to New York within a few days.

Each man could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

It was unclear whether the men had retained lawyers, the DA's office said. A telephone message left at their company office in Hollywood, Fla., was not immediately returned.

Morais and Oliveria, both of Miami, flew dangerously low while cruising their small planes past Rockaway Beach, Queens, Thursday night, Brown said.

The planes--returning from Cape Cod, Mass., where they towed advertising banners above holiday beachgoers--allegedly flew just 25 feet over a swimming area.

"Their alleged aggressive and reckless actions put many lives in danger, including their own, and showed extremely poor judgment during a heightened state of security, especially on our nation's birthday," Brown said.

Three helicopters followed the planes along the New Jersey coast to an airfield in Wall, N.J.

The planes are owned by Aerial Sign Corp. in Hollywood, Fla. The company's chief executive, Jim Butler, dismissed the charges on Friday as "grandstanding."

Federal authorities also were considering whether to file criminal charges in the case, and the pilots may face Federal Aviation Administration sanctions for flight violations.

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