New Information About Intoxicated Pilot
October 27, 2007, 9:50 PM
The pilot accused of flying while intoxicated, 65-year-old Robert Powless, landed at the Mitchell airport on Thursday. Officials say along with alcohol, they also found pills in the plane that Powless didn't have prescriptions for.
Police say an air traffic controller in Virginia was first to discover this single engine airplane acting suspiciously. Changes in elevation and slurred speech over the radio sent a warning that something wasn't right. That's why Mitchell police were there when the plane landed.
"At that point, they made contact with the pilot and the could tell he'd been drinking alcohol and conducted a field sobriety test," Sgt. Ryan Erickson of Mitchell says.
After failing the test, Powless was taken into custody for flying while intoxicated and open container.
"Right now you have to worry about people in motor vehicles that are drinking and one thing we shouldn't have to worry about is the safety of our pilots in the air," Erickson says.
Powless was flying from Illinois to Mitchell to spend the weekend pheasant hunting, and police say he is one tourist they were not happy to see.
"A lot of people come out here to enjoy South Dakota and enjoy pheasant hunting, and it takes just a few bad apples coming out here drinking that gives all of us state wide and nation wide a bad name," Erickson says.
The Federal Aviation Administration says they will likely revoke Powless's flying permit if he is found guilty.
The FBI is investigating whether the prescription drugs found on the plane were being trafficed across state lines. Operating an aircraft while intoxicated carries up to a one year prison sentence. Mitchell police say more charges are pending. Powless' blood alcohol level has not been released.
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