VILNIUS - An amateur pilot who was apprehended after wandering into Belarusian airspace last week has been escorted home to Lithuania. A district court fined the Lithuanian citizen, who was accompanied on the flight by his sister, for breaching airspace laws.
Vaidotas Verba, director of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry's Consular Department, told the Baltic News Service that Tadas and Indre Blazevicius were found guilty of unlawfully crossing the border and slapped with fines of 4.5 million Belarusian rubles (5,000 litas, or 1,428 euros) by a court in Voronov, a Belarusian district where the incident occurred.
He explained that, as of June 13, the two Lithuanian citizens were waiting for Belarusian visas to legalize their stay in the country and facilitate their legal departure, perhaps the same evening. The fate of the airplane has not yet been decided by the court.
The two-seat single-engine plane, piloted by Tadas, 30, deviated from its Kaunas-Trakai-Kernave-Kaunas route and entered the Belarusian airspace during the evening of June 6. It was forced to land by Belarusian Su-25 fighters at a Lida airfield.
The pilot is believed to have lost his way due to a compass malfunction. The plane was flying at a low altitude in the so-called uncontrolled space and was not registered by either civilian or military radars.
Verba said an examination of the aircraft's compass did not reveal whether a technical malfunction could have caused the amateur pilot to accidentally enter the Belarusian air space. Thus, the incident was treated as an illegal trespassing of state borders.
In Lithuania, the Vilnius District Prosecutor's Office on June 12 launched a pretrial investigation to determine whether the pilot had violated international flight regulations.
The Lithuanian Criminal Code stipulates a fine, arrest, or imprisonment for up to two years for crossing Lithuanian airspace by a plane or any other aircraft.
Blazevicius had an amateur pilot's license and was due to be shortly granted qualifications to pilot ultra-light airplanes.