by Jim Ridley
Flying through rain in the dark before midnight on Friday, a 75-year-old pilot used the lights of Opryland to guide his vintage airplane to a smooth belly landing on a grass strip at a shuttered airport in East Nashville.
Even without landing gear, Russell Brothers, Jr., came down so gently in his 1961 twin-engine Beechcraft Model 18 that he didn’t trigger the crash locator that would have given authorities his location at Cornelia Fort Airpark.
He was alone and uninjured at an airstrip he’d flown to for more than 50 years before it closed. He called his wife to pick him up and they rode back to Burns, Tennessee, leaving the airplane behind as a mystery for police.
“We were just both thankful that I wasn’t hurt and that was all we talked about,” Brothers said by phone this morning. ...
Interesting human-interest story. Oh, wait. From today's City Paper online:
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. ...
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. ...
UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: Tennessean story since updated with info about Brothers' record.