I was at the fire house a couple days ago when I first heard about this on the News. Some drunk guy stole an airplane from a local airport and took it for a ride with a couple friends.
As Philippe Patricio stepped out of the single-engine Cessna in the pre-dawn darkness at Westchester County Airport, two empty Corona beer bottles fell to the pavement, officials said.
It was an unsettling end to a wild ride.
Officials say Patricio, 20, somehow stole a plane from Danbury Airport and, with two 16-year-old buddies aboard, set off on a drunken, three-hour flight before landing on a taxiway at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday with less than four gallons of fuel left in his tanks.
Authorities say Patricio struggled with the officers who arrested him at Westchester, about 26 miles from Danbury. When he finally took a sobriety test, his blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for driving a car.
Peter Scherrer, assistant manager at Westchester Airport, locks up a plane allegedly taken from Danbury Municipal Airport by Philippe Patricio early Wednesday.
Patricio's friends were not shocked. They said he had a history of drunken driving and a passion for airplanes. It was unclear Wednesday how much previous flying experience Patricio had. Though he boasted of having a pilot's license, officials said he may have had just seven hours of lessons.
New York and federal authorities were relieved no one was killed, but upset that in the post-Sept. 11 era someone could sneak into Danbury Municipal Airport and steal a plane so easily.
"It would really be funny, if it wasn't for homeland security issues and the fact this could have ended tragically with three deaths," said Thomas Belfiore, the Westchester County Police Commissioner.
Debris litters the interior of the Cessna.
Strat Sherman, head of the Danbury Airport Neighbors Association, said the group has been complaining about poor security at the airport and "it's surprising that something like this hasn't happened sooner."
"Good thing nobody was hurt, and that the thief was a drunk, not a terrorist aimed at New York City," Sherman said in an e-mail.
In New York, Patricio was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and reckless endangerment, both felonies. He was also charged with resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated.
A man allegedly stole a Cessna from Danbury Municipal Airport early Wednesday, and flew two friends to Westchester County Airport, where he was arrested.
The final charge is for taxiing the plane at Westchester; there are no criminal laws against flying while intoxicated, though licensed pilots can face administrative sanctions.
No Connecticut charges have been filed yet.
Patricio was arraigned in Harrison, N.Y., and is being held without bail for another court appearance Friday. His teenage passengers were returned to Bethel without being charged.
On Wednesday afternoon, reporters flocked to Patricio's father and stepmother's home on Payne Road in Bethel. His distraught stepmother said she was trying to find a lawyer.
"It's unfathomable," said the stepmother, whose name wasn't immediately available. "My husband is beside himself."
Acquaintances described Patricio as a Brazilian immigrant who has been in the United States for six years. They said he is unmarried but has a 4-year-old child with an American woman with whom he lived until two weeks ago.
Friends said Patricio is a trained mechanic who worked at a Danbury auto repair shop until he was fired in February for missing too much work. The friend said Patricio also worked at the Waterbury-Oxford Airport for a time, but airport administrators could not be reached for confirmation.
"For those who knew Philippe superficially, this is shocking," said one friend and former co-worker. "He is a kind young man with a huge heart. Someone who would put his life on the line for others.
"But his personal life was a wreck," continued the friend, who said Patricio acted irrationally when he was drinking. "For someone who knew him well like me, it is not a surprise that he did something like this. After all, he has been arrested twice on driving drunk and lost his license because of it."
According to court records, Patricio was stopped by Danbury police on April 20, 2004, and charged with operating under the influence and reckless driving. The state Department of Motor Vehicles suspended his license, but reinstated it in August. Last week, Patricio pleaded guilty to reckless driving and the case file was sealed after he was enrolled in the alcohol education program.
On May 13, Patricio was stopped by state police as he drove west on Interstate 84 near Exit 5. He was charged with driving under the influence and speeding. Patricio pleaded innocent and the case is still pending, according to court records.
As for Patricio's flying, the friend and former co-worker said "airplanes were a little obsession to him. He always bragged about his pilot license. He dreamed of buying his own plane. But he never said anything like stealing one, or doing anything like what he did."
On Wednesday evening, it was still unclear how Patricio pulled off his joyride.
Officials said he was drinking with two friends in Bethel when they hatched the idea of flying over New Haven. Authorities said they drove to the Danbury airport, where Patricio had once taken flying lessons. From this point on, officials have different ideas about what happened.
Danbury police suspect Patricio and the two teens slipped through a hole in the fence about 100 yards from where the plane was parked. The hole was small and overgrown with brush, and apparently had been there for a some time, police said.
Airport manager Paul Estefan disputed that theory, saying his inspection showed thorns and brush were so dense that only "a stupid idiot" would attempt to go through it.
"I couldn't even put my hand in there," he said. "But if there is a hole, we'll correct it."
Estefan said it was more likely Patricio entered the airport through the gate after punching in an access code.
"Student pilots are routinely given those codes so they can prepare their aircraft. We're in the process of changing the code," said Estafan, who added he would discuss the episode with airport-based businesses and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Once inside the airport, it's unclear how Patricio got into the Cessna 172 that was owned by Arrow Aviation of Danbury. The plane was sitting on the tarmac, tied down and locked.
Arrow owner Joan Sherwood told Estefan none of the plane's keys were missing. But on Wednesday afternoon, Belfiore, the Westchester police commissioner, said "we have keys, too. It just raises a number of questions that we can't answer today."
An Arrow employee told police Patricio "had been flying a few times with instructors but didn't have a license," said Danbury police spokesman Capt. Arthur Sullo.
Early Wednesday, a security patrol at Westchester County Airport in White Plains saw a low-flying plane approaching the airport and flying erratically. The runway lights were off, said County Executive Andrew Spano, because of construction work at the airport.
Patricio landed on a taxiway; Belfiore said workers speculated the moon-lit night caused reflective paint on the taxiway to glow, giving the pilot enough light to see.
"There was some internal talk in my office of what an accomplishment this was" to land the plane safely, said Belfiore. "As we continue to investigate, I suspect we'll find he had more flight time that we know of today."
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Thread: Airplane Stolen
06-24-2005, 10:02 PM #1
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- Nov 2004
06-24-2005, 10:51 PM #2
A night landing with no runway lights and ****ed to the gills!
This kid is either lucky, or extrememly lucky. Extremely stupid is a given.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
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