Helicopter wackiness in Athlone

A 5,000 euro fine levied this week ended a wonderfully strange story involving an Irish helicopter pilot who landed on the roof of a County Athlone shopping center back in 2007, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone. Sean O’Brien of County Offaly told police he’d put his chopper down on the roof so he could pick up a set of keys from someone. Americans were to blame, the defendant told the court. Apparently, when O’Brien lived in Florida a few years earlier, Yank flight instructors had told him specifically that there are no laws against landing a helicopter on a shopping center roof. How he actually got the machine seems to be a mystery, as O’Brien’s lawyer says he is “a man of no means” whatever. An apparently frustrated judge in the case noted that the wandering pilot “has no grasp whatsoever of…common sense” before giving him the fine and a suspended jail sentence.