Skip to main content
Press Release

Inyo County Man Pleads Guilty to Operating a Plane Without a License

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Arnold Peterson, 57, of Big Pine, pleaded guilty today to operating a plane without an airman’s certificate, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, on June 8, 2017, Peterson flew a private aircraft into Portales Municipal Airport located in Portales, New Mexico without having a valid airman certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

On June 8, 2017, Peterson flew an aircraft through Class C Airspace at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas without calling the airport’s Air Traffic Control (ATC). Two-way radio communication with ATC is required prior to entry into and while in Class C Airspace. His action caused a regional jet to deviate from its flight path in order to avoid the unknown, uncommunicative aircraft. ATC tracked the aircraft until in landed in Portales, New Mexico. A subsequent investigation established that the aircraft’s registration was expired and that Peterson’s previously issued airman certificate had been surrendered for revocation on June 17, 2014, and had never been reinstated.

“The guilty plea in this U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG) investigation demonstrates our commitment to safeguarding the National Airspace System,” said Jeffrey Dubsick, DOT-OIG Regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Working with the Federal Aviation Administration and our prosecutorial partners, we will continue our efforts to vigorously pursue unlicensed pilots who illegally operate aircraft.”

This case is the product of an investigation by the DOT-OIG and the Federal Aviation Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura D. Withers and Vincente A. Tennerelli are prosecuting the case.

Peterson is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 16 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. Peterson faces a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated September 30, 2019

Press Release Number: 1:18-cr-121 LJO