Van Nuys Airport. Photo by John Schreiber.
Van Nuys Airport. Photo by John Schreiber.

Does your pilot really have a license to fly?

You may want to ask that question next time you fly as an Irvine man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of illegally flying a twin-engine Falcon 10 turbojet airplane, with passengers onboard, without having a valid pilot’s license.

Arnold Gerald Leto III, 36, was charged in a criminal complaint — filed Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court — with operating an aircraft in air transportation without a valid airman’s certificate.

An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Leto’s license was revoked earlier this year, he operated the Falcon without having the required co-pilot, and he was never certified to fly this type of aircraft.

Leto’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Leto is charged will illegally flying the Falcon 10 from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 8. Leto allegedly piloted the aircraft solo, with about eight passengers on board.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Falcon 10 is a complex aircraft that requires two pilots to operate.

Prosecutors also allege that Leto’s pilot certificate — which he failed to surrender after it was revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration in January — did not have a turbojet-type rating that would authorize him to fly that airplane.

Leto faces a maximum penalty of three years federal prison if convicted.

“This case that alleges operating an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate is a clear signal that those who would seek to circumvent or disregard transportation-related laws and regulations will face serious repercussions,” said William Swallow, regional Special Agent-In-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General.

“Our agents will continue to work with federal, state, and local authorities to ensure safety for the traveling public,” he said.

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