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North Bay Pilot Accused Of Drunken Flying Faces New Charge

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(CBS)

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SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A pilot accused of buzzing cars by drunkenly flying low over state Highway 37 on Jan. 3 was charged Tuesday in Sonoma County Superior Court with reckless flying in another incident 25 days later.

Michael Ferrero, 62, of Penngrove, is charged with a second count of unlawful operation of an aircraft in the air or on the ground in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another on Jan. 28, Chief Deputy District Attorney William Brockley said.

Brockley would not disclose specifics of the latest alleged offense, but he said Ferrero was flying the plane on Jan. 28.

Attorney Martin Woods entered a not guilty plea to the amended complaint containing the additional reckless flying charge Tuesday morning in Sonoma County Superior Court on Ferrero’s behalf.

A settlement conference or setting of a trial date is scheduled for April 25. Woods said he thinks the five misdemeanor charges-complaint can still be settled.

Ferrero also is charged with flying under the influence of alcohol, flying with a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.04 percent, and operating or maintaining an aircraft under the influence.

The level considered intoxicated while flying is 0.04 percent.

Judge Bradford DeMeo told Woods to inform Ferrero he is “not to operate an aircraft whatsoever” including taxiing. The judge said Ferrero is allowed to start the plane’s engine under the supervision of an aircraft mechanic but cannot move the plane.

Woods said Ferrero faces a 90-day suspension of his pilot’s license.

The California Highway Patrol’s air operations unit was on routine patrol along Highway 37 in Sonoma County on 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 plane’s tail number was traced to a Penngrove man, the CHP said.

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

Ferrero worked in the banking industry and is retired, Woods said.

Woods said Ferrero may have to serve a 30-day jail sentence if he is convicted, in addition to any penalties imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The penalty for flying under the influence is 30 days to six months in jail and a fine of up to $250, according to the California Public Utilities Code that applies to aviation offenses.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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