Low-Flying Pilot Turns Himself In; Faces Charges

A local pilot repeatedly flew his airplane at an extremely low altitude over Sag Harbor’s waterfront for about 15 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1.

As he had promised, the local pilot who buzzed downtown Sag Harbor and Springs at extremely low altitudes during a 45-minute flight on April 13 turned himself in to Sag Harbor Village Police on Friday morning, April 23, to face a charge of reckless endangerment in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

David J. Wisner

The pilot, David J. Wisner, 47, of East Hampton, was processed at headquarters and released on his own recognizance for an arraignment in Sag Harbor Justice Court at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 7, Police Chief Austin J. McGuire disclosed later on Friday.

Mr. Wisner, owner of Fireplace Auto Collision on Springs Fireplace Road, has acknowledged he made the flight, calling it “dumb” in a text message to this newspaper. Evidence of the flight can be easily found on the web, from Facebook videos shot by astonished witnesses to aviation tracking apps, with the N-number of Mr. Wisner’s Cessna 182, its track, speeds and altitudes to as low as 100 feet and possibly lower, all publicly recorded.

His attorney, Colin Patrick Astarita of Southampton, has commented that Mr. Wisner has continued to express regret for the incident, and has offered his “sincere apologies to all who were affected.” Mr. Wisner “takes full responsibility for his actions,” Mr. Astarita has said.

A charge of reckless endangerment in the second degree is levied when police and prosecutors agree a person has engaged in conduct that “creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person,” according to a New York State website. It carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and the possibility of a sentence of three years’ probation and community service, according to the website of criminal attorneys Crotty Saland.

The FAA is also investigating the episode, according to Stephen R. Ferrara, of the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office in Farmingdale. If the FAA pursues an enforcement proceeding, its only power would be to suspend or revoke the pilot’s license.