A Steuben County man faces up to 5 years in federal prison, after pleading guilty to lying to a federal agent about a plane crash at Perry-Warsaw Airport in Perry on Halloween 2015.
Prosecutors say 40-year-old Brian Woodhams of Wayland had his 15-year-old son aboard his plane when it went off the runway, in violation of his student pilot license, then lied to federal agents repeatedly about the presence of his son during the crash.
Woodhams also faces up to a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced in November.
STEUBEN COUNTY MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO
MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT
BUFFALO, N.Y.- Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Brian Woodhams, 40, of Wayland, NY, pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent, before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary C. Baumgarten, who is handling the case, stated that since October, 2015, the defendant has held a student pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is permitted to fly an airplane with a flight instructor or by himself. If Woodhams flies with a passenger, a flight instructor must also be on board the airplane.
On October 31, 2015, the defendant was involved an accident while landing his Piper Cherokee 140 airplane at the Perry-Warsaw Airport in Perry, NY. The airplane veered to the right, and Woodhams over-corrected and hit the brakes, causing the nose of the plane to go into the ditch off the runway. At the time of the accident, there was a 15-year old boy on board as a passenger, but no flight instructor.
On November 2, 2015, FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors viewed the defendant’s airplane at the Perry-Warsaw Airport. During a telephone conversation, Woodhams told inspectors that he had sustained a bloody nose and hurt his shin during the crash. The defendant also stated that he was the only occupant in the airplane at the time of the accident but that his son approached the aircraft immediately after the crash and slipped and fell as he climbed up the flap, hitting his nose and causing a bloody nose.
Woodhams met with inspectors in person on November 4, 2015, and stated once again that he was the only occupant of the aircraft at the time of the accident and that his son arrived at the crash scene later. The defendant was told that a witness reported seeing his son in the aircraft but Woodhams again denied this fact.
On November 10, 2015, the defendant submitted a Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and failed to report that there was a passenger on the plane at the time of the accident who was injured.
On January 10, 2017, Woodhams was interviewed by a Special Agent of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, and FAA inspectors and stated once again that he was the only person on the plane at that time. When questioned concerning evidence developed during the FAA investigation that there was a passenger in the plane at the time of the crash, defenant denied that there was a passenger in the plane and he gave an alternative explanation that was untrue.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sentencing is scheduled for November 3, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Vilardo.