Press Releases

Pilots charged after flying through NYC sky

By Devlin Barrett, The Associated Press
Saturday July 06, 2002

Sanctions could range
from a written reprimand
to license revocations 


NEW YORK — Two pilots were charged Friday with reckless endangerment for flying through restricted airspace around New York City, spurring fears of a July Fourth terrorist attack. 

The two planes flew just 25 feet over a swimming area, well below the required 1,000-feet minimum, federal authorities said. The pilots had been returning to their New Jersey base from Massachusetts, where they towed advertising banners above holiday beachgoers. 

Pilots Andre Morais and Daniel Oliveria, both of Miami, each face up to seven years in prison if convicted of reckless endangerment and violating air traffic rules. 

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said they flew dangerously low Thursday evening while cruising past Rockaway Beach. 

“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 the airfield in Wall, N.J., about 40 miles south of Manhattan, where the pilots landed. 

Neither pilot had their radio or transponder on, officials said. 

The FBI questioned the men for several hours, determined they posed no terror risk and released them. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said the pilots could face flight sanctions ranging from a written reprimand to revocation of their licenses. 

Arrest warrants were issued Friday in New York for the men, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The planes are owned by Aerial Sign Corp. in Hollywood, Fla. The company’s chief executive officer, Jim Butler, dismissed the charges as “grandstanding.” 

“Until I receive the tapes from the air traffic control facility, I cannot reach the conclusion that these people did this,” Butler said.