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.