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Wed, Nov 07, 2007

Low-Flying Teen Suspended For Buzzing Football Game

Honor Roll Student Faces Misdemeanor Charge

The 17-year-old North Carolina student who flew a rented Cessna over a football game last week has been suspended, along with his two passengers... as authorities work to determine how many others knew about his plans beforehand.

As ANN reported, witnesses in the stands at the game between Hopewell High School and cross-town rival North Mecklenburg said the aircraft flew as low as 75 feet off the ground, before its pilot -- identified as Brian Morris -- or one of his passengers dropped a football on the field.

Others said the Cessna 172 flew lower than the tops of the stadium lights.

Some dismissed the incident as a prank... while others say they feared terrorism. Still others -- mostly students -- say Morris' stunt will become part of the school's history.

"I thought they planned to do that," said Hopewell sophomore Adama Wakai. "I think it was pretty cool." Junior Kaleb Combs added Morris is "an honor roll student. He's very popular and he helped start the Hopewell Ultimate Frisbee Club. He's ... well-liked, and now a Hopewell legend."

Others were less enthusiastic, according to the Charlotte Observer. "In this day and time, you think terrorist attack," said North Mecklenburg parent Beth Plummer, "and whether someone's coming out to hurt us."

Morris earned his pilot's certificate in July. He may be lucky if he still has it by the end of the year, according to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen -- as the young pilot clearly flew lower than the 1,000-foot AGL minimum over large crowds, based on witness reports.

Morris may have also violated rules by dropping the football. Bergen said the investigation could take several months.

And then there are the possible criminal charges. Morris may be charged with endangering the public, which Huntersville police Captain Michael Kee says is a misdemeanor under North Carolina law. The department "will certainly look into any criminal charges that we could levy against this young man," Kee said.

Meanwhile, school officials say others may have known Morris planned to buzz the game. The football dropped from the plane sported numerous signatures from students... football players... and even some school officials.

Area Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh believes some of the signers "didn't have any idea whatsoever it was going to be dropped from a plane," adding it was also unclear if anyone else knew of the prank, or may have helped Morris rent the plane.

"I've been around for 27 years in public education. This is a first," he said. "I was just happy to have a car to drive to school."

FMI: www.faa.gov, http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/hopewell/

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