from Burlington Free Press,
Plattsburgh - South Burlington flight instructor Nicholas Carl Santo pleaded guilty Monday night to falsely notifying a control tower that his plane had crashed.
The misdemenaor will set Santo back $305, said a clerk at Plasttsburgh Town Court who declined to indentify himself.
Police say Santo radioed to control tower operators at Plattsburgh International Airport on Jan. 30, stating the Cessna he piloted had hit a snow bank and flipped.
Investigators quickly determined that Santo had not crashed, said Clinton County Sheriff David Favro.
But Santo’s false report of a crash triggered an “unimaginable” flurry of state, local and federal law enforcement activity until Santo’s flight was found to pose no further threat to public safety, Favro added.
Santo is a part-owner of South Burlington based North Ramp Aviation, which offers flight training.
Santo is a part-owner of South Burlington-based North Ramp Aviation,
His wife, Sue Marchant, said in a February interview that Santo had a student aboard the aircraft when the incident took place. The flight school typically runs planes between its base at Burlington International Airport and Plattsburgh, she added.
Santo, who was flying a North Ramp Aviation-owned Cessna, told investigators that the airport’s landing lights temporally blinded him at 6:30 p.m. before he allegedly lost control.
The report delayed the landing of an inbound Cape Air flight from Boston, for which the lights had been switched on, police said.
Santo founded the flight school in 1995 and serves as its chief flight instructor. The company website states Santo is “The most experienced CFI teaching in Vermont today”.
The false report in January was preceded by another irregularity.
A FAA incident report states that Santo made a “wheels-up” landing Feb 5, 2008, apparently unaware that his landing gear was retracted.
The report states Santo “lost situational awareness” while approaching a runway at Burlington International Airport in a Beech Duke 76 - the report cited no injuries.
“The pilot stated that during the whole sequence neither he nor his passenger, who is the owner of the airplane, heard the gear warning horn”.
The report paraphrased Santo’s remarks: “However, gear horn might well have been screaming at us and we were both too busy and distracted to hear it”.
After lifting the aircraft with two front-end loaders, a ground technician inspected the landing system and found no mechanical problems, the report says.