Kent transport

Kent man sentenced for flying plane without license

A Kent man has been sentenced in federal court to probation for flying an aircraft without a licence.

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Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. of the U.S. Court for the Sixth District in the Northern District of Ohio sentenced 72-year-old Delbert Garfield Stewart to two years probation on Monday, court records show. Oliver also fined Stewart $5,000 and ordered that he be confined for a weekend to a facility chosen by a probation officer within two months.

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Court records show that Stewart represented himself but retained the services of various attorneys during his case. A lawyer hired by Stewart who was present during his sentencing did not return a phone call seeking comment.

According to an affidavit that a special agent from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General filed in court, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Stewart a private pilot certificate in 1978. According to the FAA website, a private pilot’s certificate is a type of airman’s license. certificate, which is a pilot’s license.

The affidavit states that the FAA suspended Stewart’s certificate for 180 days in February 2014. In a letter sent to Stewart several months earlier, the FAA informed him that it was considering a suspension due to violations of “numerous FAA regulations” while flying from Atlanta to Portage County Airport. This included flying in unauthorized conditions and climbing to an altitude above what he was cleared to fly.

Stewart did not appeal the suspension, nor did he relinquish his certificate, as required by federal regulations. As a result, his suspension remained in effect indefinitely.

In March 2014, when his single-engine plane landed at Portage Airport, the landing gear did not fully extend and the plane landed on his body. Stewart did not submit the aircraft for inspection and the FAA suspended its certificate of airworthiness.

In 2019, Stewart flew the plane multiple times to and from an Indiana airport. This included three flights carrying passengers on the same day. On the last of those flights, the plane’s undercarriage again failed to lower and it again landed on his body, records show.

In October 2019, the FAA issued an emergency order revoking Stewart’s still-suspended airman’s certificate.

During the spring and early summer of 2020, the aircraft departed Portage Airport several times. In early July, an FAA official and an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper launched an investigation after Stewart landed with an adult female passenger on board at the airport. Stewart was again informed that his pilot’s certificate had been revoked and the airworthiness of the aircraft had been suspended.

An examination of the aircraft shortly afterwards determined that it had “a crack on the outer surface of the wing, damage to the outer surface of the fuselage, a crack on the outside of the left undercarriage and the tape covering parts of the plane,” according to the affidavit.

Stewart then flew the plane several times to Atlanta airport and in March 2021, he only activated his plane’s transponder shortly before he landed, preventing airport staff from tracking his plane.

The lawsuit against Stewart was filed in April 2021, and a grand jury indictment was filed the following month.

Stewart has repeatedly asserted, including in letters to the FAA, that the US Department of Transportation, which includes the FAA, does not have jurisdiction under the US Constitution because he is a private pilot and does not s does not engage in interstate commerce. Stewart made a similar argument in a motion to dismiss the charges, but the court ruled that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution allowed the federal government to regulate planes, even if the pilot did not receive payment.

According to court records, Stewart pleaded guilty to one count of flying an airplane without a valid airman’s certificate last April. As part of a plea deal, two additional counts of the same charge were dismissed.

Journalist Jeff Saunders can be reached at [email protected]