Illegal flight lands pilot in trouble once again.
A 74-year-old Sheridan man with a decades-long history of defying federal aviation rules just can't seem to stay out of the cockpit.
Teddy Ernest Mayfield was sentenced Tuesday for flying a single-engine plane from Eugene Airport to the Independence airport in June 2008 - 26 years after the Federal Aviation Administration last revoked his pilot's license.
U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ordered Mayfield to pay a $2,000 fine, placed him on three years' probation and forbade him to "operate, construct or repair aviation equipment" without his probation officer's permission.
Mayfield was sentenced in 1994 to 41/2 months in federal prison for repeatedly flying without a license, court records show. He also was sentenced in 1995 to five months in state prison for criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of two customers of his former skydiving school. FAA investigators blamed his faulty packing of parachutes in those deaths.
Mayfield fell off the agency's radar screen for more than a decade after the latter conviction, becoming a Sheridan city councilor and Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. But he again captured FAA attention by taking off from the Eugene Airport on June 13, 2008, without communicating with - or getting clearance from - air traffic controllers.
He initially suggested to investigators that another pilot with him was flying the plane, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney William "Bud" Fitzgerald. But the FAA determined that the other pilot was at work in Corvallis at the time of the illegal take-off, according to a sentencing memo by Fitzgerald.
And in a letter to Hogan this month, Mayfield said he took "full responsibility for my irresponsible act of flying the airplane from Eugene to Independence. I knew better and I should not have done it."
Mayfield also wrote that airplanes "have always been my life and only source of income. Since I closed my skydiving business in 1994, I turned to restoring and brokering small airplanes. Doing this does not require me to fly the airplanes."
In a defense sentencing memo, attorney Steven Myers told Hogan that his client attempted to contact the Eugene control tower for permission to take off using "light signals" because his plane's battery could not power its radio. He said Mayfield "erroneously assumed" he'd been given permission to take off.
Fitzgerald noted that Mayfield first had his license to fly revoked while still a student pilot in 1967, for illegally carrying a passenger during a flight. He went on to obtain a commercial pilot's license in 1972 and to open Pacific Parachute Center in Sheridan.
But the FAA again revoked Mayfield's license in 1982 for violations that included failing to disclose his criminal history on a prerequisite medical certificate application.
Though his license was never reinstated, Mayfield continued to fly planes and flout court orders not to do so, leading to his May 1994 federal prison sentence.
That same year, the FAA revoked Mayfield's parachute rigger certificate after the agency faulted his failure to properly pack and maintain two parachutes involved in skydiving fatalities. In 1995, he pleaded guilty in Yamhill County Circuit Court to two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the 1993 death of veteran skydiver Charles Schaefer, 33, and the 1994 death of novice jumper Lee Perry Sr., 85.
Both died when their chutes failed to open. They were among 13 people who died in Pacific Parachute Center jumps. An FAA spokeswoman said in 1994 that most of the deaths occurred after parachutes malfunctioned.
The U.S. Parachute Association suspended Mayfield as an affiliate instructor in 1994 as a result of the FAA investigation. In an interview then, Mayfield blamed his suspension on FAA harassment over what he called his 20-year battle over the agency's medical certification requirement. He said the 13 deaths bothered him, but noted that his skydiving operation trained 2,500 people a year.
He was sentenced to five months in jail and three years of probation for the homicides, Fitzgerald said, but violated that probation by building an ultralight aircraft without the court's permission.
But the prosecutor joined Myers in recommending probation rather than prison for the Eugene offense, saying FAA officials agreed it was an appropriate penalty for the latest offense.
Myers noted that the Eugene incident came 15 years after Mayfield's previous aviation-related conviction. He noted that his client had strictly complied with terms of his pretrial release, and has a 35-year history of community service in Sheridan.