Massachusetts Man Convicted For Backyard Helicopter Operation

Apr 11, 2022 1 min read
Massachusetts Man Convicted For Backyard Helicopter Operation

The feds don’t like you turning your property into a mini airport…

With traffic congestion a real problem, people can get pretty creative so they don’t have to sit on crowded roadways. Lest you think buying a helicopter and flying it out of your backyard is a good solution, learn from the mistakes of a man in East Brookfield, Massachusetts who got caught doing just that. Now he’s paying the price for not following federal aviation rules.

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After a 3-day trial, 62-year-old Antonio Santonastaso was convicted of once count of serving as an airman without an airman certificate, one count of making false statements to federal agents, and one count of attempted witness tampering.

The man was flying a Robinson R22 helicopter from his backyard, allegedly over 50 times from April 2018 to November 2018. That’s pretty wild, but the man didn’t have a valid pilot’s license, which he lost in 2000. Neighbors didn’t like the helicopter departures and landings, with one in particular contacting the FAA to complain about the R-22 getting too close to a swing set.

FAA investigators inspected the neighborhood in East Brookfield, concluding the flightpath from the backyard was “extremely hazardous.” Many obstacles made flying the helicopter precarious, thanks to the property being “lined tightly with trees, with only a few feet of clearance for the helicopter’s rotor blades.”

According to authorities, this isn’t Santonastaso’s first brush with the law that involves a helicopter. They say he participated in the theft of a helicopter from an airport in Norwood. That seems like it could be a really good story to share at parties.

Originally, Santonastaso was indicted In May of 2019. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 5, 2022. He’s facing upwards of 20 years in prison, three years of probation, and a $250,000 fine.

Sources: United States Department of Justice, Boston Herald

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