REGIONAL AIRPORT Pretrial hearing for pilot likely in March
The Vienna police chief said some of the passengers were afraid to get on the plane.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- A 28-year-old pilot arrested on misdemeanor charges of inducing panic and disorderly conduct at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is expected to have a pretrial hearing in March.
Vienna Police Chief David Ovensy, who oversees security at the airport, filed charges Tuesday in Girard Municipal Court.
Gerald Gola, 28, of Detroit, is free on a $7,000 bond. His attorney, Sam Bluedorn, has entered an innocent plea on his behalf.
"The prosecutor said we will pick a date in March when everyone can make it and have a pretrial at that time," Ovensy said.
Prosecutor Robert Johnson could not be reached.
"I think it is going to be difficult for the prosecution to prove its case," Bluedorn said.
What happened: Gola was arrested around 10 a.m. Friday. Passengers on the charter flight bound for Atlantic City, on which he was co-pilot, were stranded at the Vienna Township airport until another pilot could be found.
Tom Nolan, airport director, and Ovensy said Gola, who works for Ryan International, was being "belligerent" when he was going through security.
According to Ovensy, Gola made a comment to security personnel about having a sharp object in the cockpit.
Gola, however, has said that he and the other crew members were going through security when he was asked to take off his belt buckle. Gola said he made a comment that there is an ax in the plane. Gola explained that the ax is used if the plane crashes and the pilots cannot get out of the cockpit.
Gola said moments after he made the comment, he was taken to the airport security office and told he was going to be charged with disorderly conduct. He was then allowed to leave and told to go through security again.
Gola said when he was asked to take off his belt buckle, the security officer thought he was going to take his pants off and he was arrested on a charge of inducing panic.
Passengers' concerns: "We did what we thought was best," said Ovensy. "There were passengers, some older people, that were afraid with the way he was acting and some of the passengers did not want to get on the plane with him."
Airport officials said the flight was delayed about three hours while the charter crew waited for another pilot to arrive from Cleveland.