Pilot sentenced for flying under the influence

May 8, 2012 2:30:14 PM PDT
A Penngrove man pleaded no contest through his attorney Tuesday morning to flying his airplane while intoxicated in Sonoma County in January.

Michael Ferrero, 62, did not appear before Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Bradford DeMeo, and his attorney Martin Woods entered the plea on his behalf.

The judge immediately sentenced Ferrero to four days in Sonoma County Jail, three years' probation, 30 days of electronic home confinement and 26 days of volunteer service. Ferrero also was fined $2,326.

Ferrero had been charged with five misdemeanor counts. He pleaded no contest to operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol with a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.04 percent -- the legal limit while flying.

He had also been charged with operating an aircraft under the influence, two counts of operating an aircraft in a reckless manner, and operating or maintaining an aircraft under the influence, but those charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

The California Highway Patrol's air operations unit was on routine patrol along state Highway 37 in Sonoma County the afternoon of Jan. 3 when it spotted a pilot flying recklessly.

CHP officials said the pilot was flying as low as 50 feet above the ground, and within 100 feet of highway traffic.

The officers contacted Ferrero when he landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport, where they smelled alcohol on his breath, CHP officials said. He was cited for flying under the influence after failing field sobriety tests.

Ferrero was charged with a second count of operating an aircraft in the air or on the ground in a reckless manner after another incident on Jan. 28, Chief Deputy District Attorney William Brockley said.

After this morning's hearing, Woods said Ferrero is remorseful for his actions.

Woods said the judge's order that Ferrero not fly or taxi the plane for 90 days should address concerns about public safety.


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