REGIONAL AIRPORT Co-pilot's remarks land him in jail
The co-pilot was released after posting a $7,000 bond.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- More than 120 people were delayed three hours at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport after the co-pilot of a chartered flight made a remark about a standard-issue crash ax routinely stored in the airplane's cockpit.
The co-pilot, Gerald Gola, 28, of Detroit, was arrested around 10 a.m. Friday on a misdemeanor charge of inducing panic, causing the passengers of the charter, heading to Atlantic City, to be stranded at the airport until another pilot could be found.
Tom Nolan, director of the airport, and Dave Ovensy, Vienna police chief who provides security at the airport, said Gola, who works for Ryan International, was being "belligerent" when he was going through security.
"He was going through the same security procedures as all the passengers, and he made a comment that they have a sharp object in the cockpit," Ovensy said.
"He was warned and then he went through security again and made another mention of it."
The other side: Gola, who was released Friday afternoon from Trumbull County Jail after posting a $7,000 bond, said he did not cause anyone to panic.
"I feel terrible this happened," Gola said. "I didn't mean to cause any delay. I am so embarrassed."
Gola said he and the other crew members were going through security when he was asked to take off his belt buckle.
"I made the comment that here, you check all this, and we have a crash ax in the cockpit," Gola said, explaining the ax is used if the plane crashes and the pilots cannot get out of the cockpit.
"As soon as I made the comment, I was taken out of the line and brought to the police office."
Gola said he was told by police officers that he was going to be charged with disorderly conduct but that they would let him leave with the plane.
"They told me to go back through the security line and not to say a word," Gola said. "I did what they said. I was scared. I have never been in trouble before."
What happened next: Gola said when he was in line the second time, he was once again asked to remove his belt buckle.
"I went to slip it off and the officer thought I was going to take my pants off, and so she arrested me," Gola said.
"I was stunned. We have to go through four of these screens a day -- every time we go to an airport -- and this has never happened to me."
Gola said he has worked as a pilot for five years.
Atty. Sam Bluedorn, who represents Gola, said he believes his client is innocent and will be cleared of the charge.
"We have already faxed a plea of not guilty to Girard Municipal Court so that Mr. Gola will not have to appear Monday," Bluedorn said. He noted that he did not know when Gola will appear in court.
"This has been such a horrible day, and I can't wait to get home," said Gola, who noted he is renting a car and driving to Michigan so he can avoid the airport security system.