FUI lands man in prison

September 8, 2010 9:01pm
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•  Think you can fly? Try getting a license

•  ‘Where is that in relationship to the rest of the world?’

•  UPDATED with information about the plane

It was just a little flying jaunt for Michael Dana McEnry, but the 56-year-old Bridgeville man has finally landed – in prison.

Mr. McEnry was sentenced Wednesday in Fresno U.S. District Court to 21 months in prison for flying a single-engine Cessna without an airman’s certificate or pilot’s license. Sobriety tests indicated he was FUI – flying under the influence.

According to court documents and evidence presented by the government at a daylong hearing, on Jan. 6, 2009, Mr. McEnry made a rather inelegant landing at Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop.

He nearly crashed into an aircraft that was preparing for takeoff on another runway before he finally touched down and then went off the runway into sage brush, made a U-turn back onto the runway, and parked the plane.

Upon entering the terminal, he declared, “I just scared the s--- out of myself.” He then asked, “Where am I?” When he was advised that he was in Bishop, he responded, “Where is that in relationship to the rest of the world?”

An Inyo County sheriff’s deputy responded to the airport and administrated field sobriety tests, which Mr. McEnry failed. Hey said that he had used marijuana and Oxycontin and always “flies high” and also admitted that he did not have a pilot’s license, prosecutors say.

FAA records indicate that Mr. McEnry had flown at least 1,200 hours and that the only certificate he had ever held was a student pilot certificate that expired in 1988. Law enforcement officers found a prescription bottle for Oxycontin and a film canister with marijuana residue inside the Cessna and evidence of marijuana cultivation and a recent harvest at Mr. McEnry’s residence.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Oliver Wanger found that Mr. McEnry was “a reckless pilot who engaged in a lot of illegal conduct for a lot of years” and created “a very dangerous situation” when he flew into the Bishop airport. There was, according to Judge Wanger, the “potential for a mid-runway collision.”

The airplane has a bit of history with authorities.

"The plane, a Cessna 210F 1966, reported stolen from Sonora, Mexico in 1997, changed hands several times," the Justice Department says.

It was owned by Richard Oldham of Quartzsite, Ariz., shortly before Mr. McEnry and his partner, Larry Strandburg, "a marijuana cultivator in Humboldt County," purchased it on Dec. 31, 2008, for $40,000, the Justice Department says in an e-mail to CVBT.

Messrs McEnry and Strandburg never registered the plane, the government says. The plane was then red-flagged at the Bishop airport until repairs were made by Mexican nationals who claimed ownership and received a ferry permit to take the plane from the airport in March or April, 2009.

FAA records show that the plane was purchased by Javier Pulido Medina. However, Miguel Angel Pulido Martinez claimed ownership and presented documentation indicated that he had purchased it from Richard Oldham on March 9, 2009. FAA authorities had discussions with the Mexican nationals who wanted to retrieve the plane and advised Miguel Angel Pulido Martinez that he could not purchase the aircraft under FAA regulations, because he was not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S.

A Customs and Border Protection Air Interdiction Agent testified at the sentencing hearing that the Cessna 210F is a common aircraft used by Mexican drug traffickers. It is a red flag to drug agents.

It is referred to as a “throw-away” aircraft that is used until maintenance is required and is then discarded. It is preferred by drug traffickers because it can carry a large amount of drugs – 700 to 800 pounds of narcotics – has a high wing and strong landing gear.

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Comments on this story

Mike Holoman 9/9/10 3:18 PM (mikeholoman@hotmail.com)
What type Cessna and who owned it? That is a very important part of this story to real pilots that was overlooked.
We have not yet heard back from the Department of Justice. When we do, we'll add the information to the story. -- The Editors

The Editors 9/9/10 9:40 PM
The information about the plane is now included in the story.

BillVaughn 9/14/10 11:00 AM
After posting the answers to Mike Holoman's comments, it would appear that there is more to this story than meets the eye: The Cessna 210 was owned by Richard Oldham of Quartzsite, Ariz (92 miles from Mexico) and had been reported stolen from Sonora, Mexico in 1997, then sold on 12/31/08 to Mr. McEnry ("FUI lands man in prison") and his partner Larry Strandburg "a marujuana culitvator in Humboldt County." FAA records show the plane was purchased by a Javier Pulido Medina, but a Miguel Angel Pulido Martinez presented documents indicating he had purchaased the plane from Richard Oldham on 3/9/09. Back on 5/4/95 the Mayor of Quartzsite, Rex Byrd, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder on Richard Oldham, who had been mayor until recalled in an effort led by Byrd. Byrd's conviction was later overturned. Oldham still owns several airplanes based at his private airstrip near his Quartzsite home. His pilot's license is inactive.

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