Boeing Stearman E75 (PT-13D) biplane of 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In 1963, Fred Campbell built Campbell Field, a private airstrip beside his home in Blount County, AL. In 1976, Campbell bought a 1943 Boeing Stearman biplane, which he and his friends rebuilt and restored. Although the Stearman biplane had not flown for some 30 years, on June 22, 2012, Campbell took it up on test flights. There were about 20 folks at the field celebrating the flight - folks who would soon be characterized as "witnesses."
Okay, so, let's freeze the old biplane in mid flight and roll things back a bit.
Jason Allen McCay, 36, Hayden, AL, had filed numerous complaints with various agencies about airplanes flying over his house. On June 22nd, it seems that the fed-up McCay and the aviation buff Campbell's lives were going to bisect.
As the 1943 Stearman made it's third test flight of the day, it flew over McCay's home on its final approach to Campbell Field. As it made its approach, the biplane was about 75 feet off the ground and about 300 feet from touchdown. Inferring from those distances, McCay's home was pretty close to Campbell's backyard landing strip - about a football field's length.
At this point, a number of the 20 witnesses at the field heard several gunshots, and, as one stated in an Affidavit: "As the aircraft made a bank and leveled out over the home of Jason McCay, McCay fired upon the aircraft with a long-gun." One witness, standing about 60 yards from McCay's house, said he saw McCay standing at a fence beside the airstrip with a weapon that looked like a shotgun and that he watched McCay aim at the aircraft in flight, track it and fire repeatedly.
According to federal investigators, McCay said that he wanted to scare the people on board. Frankly, firing a 12-gauge semi-automatic Maverick shotgun at the vintage aircraft was pretty much calculated to accomplish that goal.
On July 18,, 2012, members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task arrested McCay and he was charged with a felony for an attempt to willfully interfere with or disable, with reckless disregard for the safety of human life, the authorized operation of any aircraft in the United States.
On September 26, 2012, McCay pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of attempting to interfere with the authorized operation of an aircraft flying in the United States. At his sentencing in January 2013, McCay faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In response to increasing numbers of laser incidents distracting and/or blinding pilots, a recently enacted federal law makes it a crime to aim a laser beam at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or at the flight path of such an aircraft.
Notwithstanding the federal law, on July 18, 2012, Daniel F. Dangler, 29, Philadelphia, PA, allegedly aimed a beam from a laser pointer at a Philadelphia television news helicopter. On September 27, 2012, Dangler was charged in a criminal Information. If convicted, Dangler faces a maximum possible sentence of five years' imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years' supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.
Note: The charges in an Information are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.