A pilot was arrested Sunday after police said he stole a small plane from the Boulder City Airport for a drunken joy ride.
Paul Michael Weddle, 47, was arrested by Boulder City police on DUI charges after he blew a 0.132 percent on his preliminary alcohol breath test, according to his arrest report.
A maintenance supervisor with Scenic Airlines, which runs air tours of the Grand Canyon, reported the stolen Cessna 208 Caravan about 11:30 p.m. The supervisor told police an unknown man had taken the plane without the company’s consent, the report said.
Weddle was arrested after taking off and landing several times, police said. Officers were able to stop the plane after he landed it a fifth time, according to the report.
Officers watched Weddle flying “in a reckless manner,” even coming close to another plane after an abrupt turn, the report said.
Weddle wouldn’t show his hands to the arresting officer and was eventually tackled by police, the report said.
He later told officers he wanted to complete the take-off and landing portion to obtain his pilot’s license, the report said.
There wasn’t much damage to the airport from Weddle’s wild ride, authorities said, although the plane knocked over a taxiway light during his struggle to keep the plane on the pavement. The light was repaired by Monday morning, officials said.
Weddle, from Henderson, was briefly hospitalized before being booked at the Clark County Detention Center on charges of DUI and motor vehicle theft. He has not yet been formally charged by prosecutors.
Scenic Airlines, through a spokesperson, said Weddle was not an employee of the company, but didn’t say if Weddle previously worked for them.
It’s still not clear how Weddle gained access to the plane.
Boulder City spokesman Brok Armantrout said Weddle didn’t have an access badge for the airport, but Scenic Airlines and other commercial tour operators have a few access points for their employees.
Armantrout said officials think Weddle gained access through a tour operators’ gate, but they’re not certain.
“We really do not know how he entered the airport – only know which access points that he did NOT enter,” Armantrout wrote in an email.
Armantrout said it’s very rare for someone to sneak into the airport, which typically grounds to a halt at night, he said.
“The only activity during the night time hours are maintenance inside the hangars, and those personnel are likely not monitoring the ramp area as it would be pitch black and impossible to see someone if they were walking around,” he wrote.
Weddle’s first court appearance is Tuesday morning at the Regional Justice Center.