One More Drunken Joyride

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Security workers at Westchester County (New York) airport watched early Wednesday as beer cans fell from the cabin of a stolen C-172 as the 20-year-old student pilot and his two 16-year-old passengers extricated themselves from the cabin following a 4:15 a.m. taxiway arrival. While the 20-year-old does not hold a valid pilot's certificate he did manage a blood alcohol level of .15, according to the New York Times, and so nearly doubled the legal limit (for piloting an automobile). Authorities collected the "pilot" and charged him with reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and possession of the aircraft stolen from a Danbury Municipal (Connecticut) airport flight school. The Westchester County District Attorney is considering adding a flying-while-drunk charge, which apparently may be covered by the state's general business law. The charges so far could tally up to 22 years and 90 days.

Questions surrounding how the man acquired access to the aircraft and his total flight time remained outstanding at the time of our deadline -- and a focus of local officials who conjured theoretical outcomes should drunken "20-year-old" be replaced with "terrorism-inclined evil-doer." The student has held his student pilot certificate since August 2002 and a flight school confirmed he had at least one flight lesson at that time. Officials believe the student pilot may have had at least seven hours total flight time. Calls for more security at small airports have sprouted. While Westchester mandates boots or wheel locks, aircraft at Danbury may be more accessible. (This event not to be confused with the story about the 14-year-old who stole the 152 ... that happened last week.)