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New Middletown pilot arraigned in YSU fly-by

Charged with inducing panic, disorderly conduct

YOUNGSTOWN — A New Middletown pilot has been charged in the Sept. 28 incident where a small plane flew too close to Stambaugh Stadium, alarming spectators at a Youngstown State University football game.

Christopher Wilkinson, 30, 9211 Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road, New Middletown, pleaded not guilty Friday in Youngstown Municipal Court to charges of inducing panic and disorderly conduct.

According to court records, YSU police filed the charges after the police investigation into why a single-engine Cessna flew close to the press box and stadium lights on the east side of Stambaugh Stadium during the Sept. 28 football game between YSU and Robert Morris.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Wilkinson received his commercial pilot’s license on March 21, 2018, and is certified to fly and land single- and multi-engine craft with instruments.

The charges are first- and fourth-degree misdemeanors, and Wilkinson is scheduled to appear Jan. 7, 2020, before Municipal Judge Carla Baldwin for a pre-trial hearing.

Reports indicate the small plane was circling the stadium several times at low altitudes near the lights and the press box during the late-afternoon game in which the Penguins defeated Robert Morris University, 45-10, for the team’s fourth victory of the year.

Initial reports said the incident had disturbed many people in the stands.

An attempt to contact Wilkinson was unsuccessful.

Chris Tornello of Youngstown said he is the one who owns the Cessna 150 aircraft and had said the plane was used by an experienced pilot who has regularly flown jets.

“This is unfortunate. We haven’t had this type of incident before,” Tornello said. “This pilot just made a mistake, but he is very experienced.”

Tornello said Wilkinson had flown the plane out of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna and the flight records were provided to the FAA for its investigation.

According to YSU police Chief Shawn V. Varso, the FAA investigation– which is separate from the YSU investigation — is ongoing.

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