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Pilot accused of violating Air Force One airspace is arraigned

March 21, 2012 |  6:11 pm

The Buellton man arrested after allegedly flying his Cessna airplane containing marijuana into airspace restricted because of a Southland visit by President Obama was arraigned Wednesday in Long Beach.

Brian Choppin, 43, was charged with possession of and transporting marijuana for sale.

Choppin, who was out on bail following his arrest Feb. 16, was released on his own recognizance by Long Beach Superior Court Judge James Otto, a court official said.

An initial hearing in the case is scheduled for April 12.

Choppin, who graduated from Wilson High School in Long Beach, could face up to three years in prison on the possession allegation and up to four years on the transportation count.

Authorities said Choppin, who was flying a four-seat Cessna 182, violated restricted airspace during a visit by the president.  Choppin was forced to land the single-engine plane at Long Beach Airport after being intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-16s.

Law enforcement officials met the aircraft and found what they described as a large amount of marijuana on board. They declined to disclose the exact amount because of their ongoing criminal investigation.

Federal officials determined that Choppin’s flight did not present a threat to the president and turned him over to Long Beach authorities.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, pilots who use an airplane to transport illegal drugs can face the permanent revocation of their licenses.


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 -- Sam Quinones