updated 6/22/2005 5:47:13 PM ET 2005-06-22T21:47:13

An intoxicated 20-year-old stole a small plane and took two friends on a three-hour predawn joy ride early Wednesday that ended with a safe landing at a closed airport, authorities said.

A Westchester County Airport security car met the plane at 4:15 a.m., and “a significant number of beer cans” spilled to the ground when the plane doors opened, County Executive Andrew Spano said.

The plane’s pilot, Philippe Patricio of Bethel, Conn., was arrested with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent — nearly double the legal limit for driving in New York state, said county Police Commissioner Thomas Belfiore. His two 16-year-old passengers were not charged.

The single-engine, four-seat Cessna had taken off at about 1:30 a.m. from the Danbury (Conn.) Municipal Airport, some 25 to 30 miles from the Westchester airport.

Spano was incensed, saying that the post-Sept. 11 security measures in place at the Westchester airport were not duplicated at Danbury.

“We can only make ourselves safe here (Westchester),” Spano said. “It still leaves us vulnerable to what happened.”

Paul Estefan, administrator of Danbury Municipal Airport, rejected the criticism, saying the airport is fenced in and patrolled by police officers.

Patricio was charged with criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated, Belfiore said. He said the DWI charge accuses Patricio of taxiing through the airport while drunk, since there are no state laws applying to flying while intoxicated.

Pilot may have been lost
The plane was nearly out of gas when it landed, and it appeared that Patricio became lost during his time in the air, authorities said. It was unclear how he managed to land safely in his condition on a small, unlighted taxiway, authorities said.

“There has been some internal talk about that accomplishment,” said Belfiore. Spano said Patricio had seven hours of flight instruction but no license.

Arlene Murray, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, said the agency was investigating.

She identified the owner of the plane as Arrow Aviation of Danbury. A call to Arrow was answered by a man who said the company was not making any statements.

A message was left at the only listed number in Bethel for a person named Patricio; it was not immediately returned.

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