N.Y. airspace violated by two planes

Pilots for sign company also accused of buzzing cruise ship in harbor


MIAMI - Two Florida pilots who tow aerial signs may face criminal charges after being accused of violating restricted airspace in New York City near Rockaway Beach and the Marine Parkway Bridge and then buzzing a cruise ship in the harbor Thursday night while returning from a job in Cape Cod.

Andre Morais, 28, of Tamarac, Fla., and Daniel Oliveira, 31, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., were chased and forced down by police helicopters in Monmouth County, N.J., early yesterday.

The president of the sign company, based in Hollywood, Fla., said the pilots were returning to a New Jersey airfield after flying banners over the Cape Cod area. The two - who were not towing signs at the time - told their boss that they were at least three miles off the coast.

The two were released yesterday morning, but may be charged with reckless endangerment, authorities said.

"It's unconscionable that these two individuals would commit a stunt like this, especially on the Fourth of July," said FBI spokeswoman Sandra Carroll of the Newark office.

She said authorities have ruled out any link to terrorism.

The pilots' boss said the pair did nothing wrong. Jim Butler, president of Aerial Sign Co., said they were flying along an offshore corridor approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"They knew specifically about the airspace restrictions," Butler said. "It would be illogical for them to be near the Marine Parkway Bridge."

He said the two were back at work flying signs over New York-New Jersey coastal areas later yesterday.

New York police began pursuing the two single-engine planes about 6:40 p.m. Thursday, and additional police helicopters soon joined the chase.

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