Santa Monica Pier Military Jet Stunt Lands Pilot in Jail

In November 2009, pier visitors were startled by the sight and sound of a jet roaring past the tourist destination

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A low-flying stunt in a military jet above Santa Monica pier landed a pilot in jail.

    A judge sentenced stunt pilot David Riggs in June 2010 to 60 days in jail for the 2008 stunt, which was captured on video (see below). Riggs lost his appeal, meaning the sentence will begin.

    The judge also ordered Riggs to clean beaches and pay a $6,000 fines. His pilot's license was revoked for one year by the Federal Aviation Administration.

    The sound and sight of an L-39 Albatross -- used by Soviet bloc pilots for training during the Cold War -- buzzing the tourist stop startled visitors in November 2009.

    I'm out here on the beach, on Santa Monica Pier, and there are two military jets buzzing us," one 911 caller said. "I mean, we're coming in close. They're maybe 10 feet above it."

    "Ten feet above the beach?" the dispatcher asked.

    The pilot made several passes, pulling into steep climbs above the pier and its iconic Ferris wheel. It was all part of a promotional stunt for a movie.

    The unauthorized aerial show prompted a Federal Aviation Administration investigation.

    It's likely Riggs will only serve part of his sentence because of overcrowding in the LA County jail system. He was convicted under a California Public Utilities Code designed to protect people on the ground from reckless pilots.  

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