Noted ex-drug smuggler crash-landed plane into closed airpark

Monday, April 23, 2012 at 11:29am
Staff reports

UPDATED, 3:05

Police say they have identified the man who crash-landed a vintage airplane at the closed Cornelia Fort Airpark — and the name given is the same as that of a pilot once convicted of smuggling drugs.

Sometime late Friday or early Saturday, Russell Brothers, 74, glided a 1961 Beechcraft twin-engine to a belly landing on the grass after its landing gear failed, according to police. On Monday, a police spokesman said that detectives had spoken with Brothers and he acknowledged flying the plane from Miami, Fla., to the closed East Nashville airpark.

According to police, Brothers, of Burns, Tenn., told them the two-way radio on the plane was not working and that he decided to land at Cornelia Fort because of his familiarity with the property.
Brothers, according to past media reports, was convicted of money laundering and drug smuggling some 20 years ago.

His name resurfaced in headlines two years ago when police charged him with stealing another man’s airplane from John C. Tune airport, flying it to Dickson and attempting to extort $12,000 from the man in exchange for returning the plane.

Cornelia Fort Airpark has been out of operation for several months and is under the control of the Metro Parks Department. A parks department maintenance worker noticed the airplane in the grass to the left of the runway Saturday morning and notified parks police officers when the plane was still there Sunday.

Police believe Brothers cut the plane’s engines before belly landing the plane in a large grassy area adjacent to the runway. The airplane was not in contact with the Nashville control tower, nor was a flight plan filed.

The plane is registered to Great American Transportation, Inc., which lists its address as Cornelia Fort Airpark, but according to a state database, the business has been inactive for at least a decade. The plane is believed to have been housed at the airpark in the past. Another corporation, Russell W. Brothers LLC, was formed in Hamilton County (Chattanooga), but has its principal address listed as Cornelia Fort Airpark as well. It has been inactive since last August.

Police said they found no cargo or contraband when officers arrived Sunday. MNPD spokesman Don Aaron said police believe Brothers is in Burns and they hope to meet with him later this week to learn more about Brothers' flight.

The FAA told The City Paper that while Brothers has a valid airman certificate, he does not have a current medical certificate, a condition for active flight status. His current flight status is "under investigation."

Brothers has a checkered flying history, with his ability to fly suspended or revoked six times over the years, according to FAA records.

Brothers is a 1956 graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy and a 1961 graduate of Vanderbilt.

10 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 4/23/12 at 12:38

Nothing fishy here.

By: BigPapa on 4/23/12 at 2:48

I hope it was a big haul, because he's going to need that cash to ward off the police on this one.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/23/12 at 3:10

Russell Brothers Jr. was given the advantages and opportunities that 98% of the youth today are wishing for. For reasons that only he knows he has been trying to outrun his headlights since he was 16 years old.

I will be hoping that drugs are not part of this airplane disaster.

By: NewYorker1 on 4/23/12 at 3:45

OH NO!!!! That poor baby.

By: hattrick3 on 4/23/12 at 4:26

Please do not assume that a convited drug smuggler that belly landed a plane designed to carry cargo on a vacant airport and had it's radio turned off at night was doing anything illegal.....oh wait, you said he took off from Miami? Nevermind.

By: budlight on 4/24/12 at 7:40

Sounds like the beginning or the ending to a good movie - Sean Penn, Steve McQueen, Bruce Willis - good action actors!

By: wasaw on 4/24/12 at 9:59

I can't stop laughing! Russell may have just pulled off his last BIG one. But could we be pointing an accusing finger at an innocent guy?

He said that he flew to Miami to have some maintainance done. The bill must have been tremendous because he had the funds to pay for his fuel, both to Miami and back, but now says he can't afford to repair his plane.

He returned to Middle Tennessee without filing a flight plan.

He flew under the radar on his return trip.

Why didn't he go ahead and fly into the Dickson airport, as he says he originally intended? They have grass alongside the runways in Dickson.

His radio went out. He still had his cellphone, which we all know will transmit in a plane. Why didn't he call the Dickson or Nashville FAA tower?

I know it looks bad for Russell but he's just on old guy who needed one more BIG score, and the joke just might be on us. The MNPD is not equipped to work escapades such as this one. They'll certainly need some assistance from the skinny Muslim's boys.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/24/12 at 4:01

Everyone at the old "Sweet Shop" is hoping that Russell beats the wrap. No story about Russell Brothers Jr. goes without an attentive audience.

By: ddeere on 4/25/12 at 9:20

Book, song and movie Folks!

Kris K as the "ole" Russell

By: GUARDIAN on 4/25/12 at 8:01

Didn't dogs not have a hit on any scent of drugs. You don't have to file a flight plan unless you go above high altitude and the FAA violations are minor. I'm waiting to see what law he has broken. ....GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.