The wrong way to show displeasure.
Barnstorming Pilot Jailed 3 Years
Friday, April 12, 2002
Last updated at 12:01:44 PM PT
By ED JOHNSON
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
LONDON -- A judge sentenced a helicopter pilot who flew directly at an air traffic control tower to three years in jail on Friday, condemning the defendant for causing panic a month after the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks in the United States.
The defendant, Shaun Lees, repeatedly buzzed the tower at Coventry Airport in central England following an argument with the airport manager. He flew within two rotor-blade lengths of the tower as he ranted over the radio, forcing controllers to evacuate the building.
Judge Marten Coates said the fact that the incident took place Oct. 12 was a factor in his sentencing decision.
"An aggravating feature of it was that it all took place just a month after those dreadful events in New York," said Coates.
"There was a feeling in the country at large and in the world at large of what had gone on a month before," he told Lees. "I have got to pass a custodial sentence on you. I have a public duty to do so."
Lees, 41, a self-employed electrical engineer, admitted endangering the safe operation of the airport and damaging an aerial used to help aircraft land.
Prosecutor Adrian Keeling told the court that the airport manager, Peter Jackson, and other officials thought they were going to die as Lees circled the tower.
"Mr. Jackson and his staff in the tower thought the helicopter was about to ram them. They honestly thought they faced injury or even death," said Keeling.
Jackson had banned Lees from using the airport a month earlier because his medical certificate had expired, the prosecutor said. Lees chartered a helicopter from a nearby airfield, landed at the Coventry Airport and was ordered to leave, he said.
Instead, he took off and hovered above the intersection of two runways, forcing two aircraft that were due to land into holding patterns - a delay that prompted one of them to issue a low-fuel warning.
Keeling said Lees hovered close to the tower and announced over the radio, "You are going to see the very worst of my flying."
When a friend was called to try to intervene, Lees told him: "I can see the whites of Mr. Jackson's eyes."
Lees eventually landed on the glide path monitor, doing $15,000 in damage, and was arrested.