Pilot Drops In Uninvited, Goes Out a ‘Celebrity’
It began as a weekend pleasure flight for pilot Brian Green and his niece and nephew, nothing more than a leisurely plane ride to pick up the children’s father in Southern California and fly back to Tulare County.
But the journey ended dramatically Saturday, when a confused Green dipped his rented Cessna 182 from the skies above Palmdale and landed on a runway--just down the Tarmac before a national press corps, a cordon of security agents and the Air Force’s stealth bomber.
The crowd had gathered at Air Force Plant 42 to witness the inaugural voyage of the $530-million B-2 stealth bomber, but the only craft airborne on this morning was the incoming Cessna with Green at the controls.
And shortly after the 35-year-old schoolteacher from Porterville touched down, he was quickly surrounded by security agents and sheriff’s deputies, who frisked and handcuffed him and then arrested him on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.
Green had planned to land at Agua Dulce Airpark--about 10 miles southwest of Palmdale--when he became lost over the Mojave Desert and was granted permission to touch down at the restricted facility, authorities said.
Anywhere to Land
“When he couldn’t find Agua Dulce airport, he started looking for any airport to land at and find out where he was,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Thomas Pigott, who was on the Tarmac as part of the security force.
Pigott described the pilot as cooperative and said a search of the plane found nothing unusual or subversive.
Green was taken to the Antelope Valley sheriff’s station in Lancaster for questioning along with his niece and nephew, 8-year-old Sarah Erickson and her 9-year-old brother, Kris. Green was questioned by sheriff’s investigators and a Federal Aviation Administration official before being released on his own recognizance.
“He was embarrassed and scared and probably had never gotten a ticket before in his life,” said Deputy Sheriff Pat Massey, who spoke with Green and the youngsters. “He was a really nice man. It was just a bad day for him. He made a mistake.”
Green, who flew back later in the afternoon to his Porterville home, declined to comment. But Steve Erickson of Santa Clarita, Green’s brother-in-law and the father of his two young passengers, said the three fliers had intended to pick him up at Agua Dulce for a return flight to Tulare County.
Erickson said Green received his pilot’s license several years ago and earlier this week, his children had accompanied their uncle on another plane ride. But this was the first time Green had attempted to make the Tulare-to-Agua Dulce flight, Erickson said.
Erickson’s son, Kris, said the ordeal was frightening as he watched his uncle being handcuffed and taken to the sheriff’s station, but that soon changed.
“At first it was scary but it sort of got fun for us because we got a little tour of the sheriff’s station, and we watched television,” he said.
“I was just scared that my uncle would get his license taken away, but it worked out OK,” the fifth-grader said.
Although Green refused to comment, Erickson said his brother-in-law called him later and told him that he left Palmdale with more than just a trespassing citation.
“He said that when he left, (they) gave him some souvenirs. He was like a celebrity of some sort,” Erickson said. “It was kind of bizarre, but I guess all this kind of eased the pressure that the B-2 failed.”