Man Accused of Taking Drunken Ride in Stolen Plane

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) -- An intoxicated 20-year-old man stole a small plane in Connecticut and took two friends on a three-hour joyride early Wednesday that somehow ended with a safe landing at a darkened Westchester County Airport, authorities said.

When an airport security car met the four-seat Cessna at 4:15 a.m. and the plane doors opened, ''a significant number of beer cans'' spilled to the ground, said County Executive Andrew Spano.

The pilot, Philippe Patricio, of Bethel, Conn., was arrested with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 _ nearly double the legal limit for driving in New York state, said county Police Commissioner Thomas Belfiore. Patricio's two 16-year-old passengers were not charged or publicly named.

Patricio had no pilot's license and just seven hours of student flight time, Spano said. He said the plane, which left from Danbury Municipal Airport, was nearly out of gas when it landed, and Patricio may have been lost.

''We don't know if he knew he was in Westchester,'' Spano said.

The Westchester airport is on the Connecticut border, 25 to 30 miles from Danbury. Belfiore said he did not know where Patricio had flown during his three hours aloft but there were no reports of him trying to land anywhere else.

It was unclear how Patricio spotted the Westchester airport, which had closed its main runway for construction work and turned off the lights at 11 p.m. Tuesday. The landing, which Belfiore called an ''accomplishment,'' was made on a taxiway in front of the main terminal, the county executive said.

Spano angrily asserted that post-Sept. 11 security measures in place at the Westchester airport were not duplicated at Danbury, where the single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk departed at about 1:30 a.m.

A stolen plane, he said, ''could possibly be a weapon'' and the Cessna ''could have crashed into any number of areas,'' he said.

The theft, he said, ''couldn't happen here in Westchester.''

Paul Estefan, the Danbury airport administrator, rejected the criticism and said there was no evidence of how Patricio could have gotten in.

''We're all locked and fenced in here,'' he said, and he insisted that the owner, the Arrow Aviation flight school, still had the key to the plane.

Estefan and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said they thought Patricio was a part-time Arrow employee and Estefan said airport officials would talk to operators about whom they hire.

But Anthony Debany, chief pilot with Arrow Aviation, said the suspect was not an employee, although he had flown with an instructor a few years ago.

''We have no clue'' how Patricio got access to the plane, Debany said.

Spano called for an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and for security provisions to be administered and paid for nationally.

Arlene Murray, an FAA spokeswoman in New York City, would not directly respond but said the agency was looking into ''whether there was any violation of FAA regulations and it's too soon to talk about that yet.''

He said the plane ride was ''dreamt up'' while the three young men were at one of their homes on Tuesday.

Patricio was to be arraigned Wednesday night on charges of criminal possession of stolen property and reckless endangerment, said District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. Belfiore said county police had also charged Patricio with resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated _ for allegedly taxiing though the airport while drunk _ but Pirro said prosecutors were pursuing only the felonies.

Patricio had no lawyer on record by late afternoon, the district attorney's office said. A telephone message left at the only Patricio home listed in Bethel was not immediately returned.