NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Police say it was a once-prominent Nashville businessman with a drug smuggling conviction who belly-landed a small vintage plane in the middle of the night last weekend at a closed airport and then left it.
The twin-engine plane was discovered Saturday morning on the grass at the closed Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville.
Russell Brothers, 74, of Burns, Tenn., told police that the plane's two-way radio was not working and he was forced to down the aircraft after his landing gear failed.
Brothers, who was flying from Miami to Dickson, Tenn., was convicted of drug smuggling 24 years ago.
A jury in Broward County, Fla., convicted Brothers of drug trafficking and racketeering in 1988 for his role in an international drug-smuggling ring that flew cocaine from Colombia into Miami, West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach. He piloted the planes that carried the cocaine. Brothers wound up serving 11 years of a 60-year prison sentence.
Brothers did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
He told The Tennessean newspaper that he was not carrying drugs on the plane that he left at the closed airpark.
Brothers' name was in the news again two years ago concerning a dispute concerning a business partner's plane and a $12,000 debt Brothers believed was owed to him.
Nashville police said Brothers spoke with investigators by phone and told them that it was he who downed the 1961 Beechcraft twin-engine airplane at the closed airfield. He chose Cornelia Fort because he was familiar with the old airport.
Police said authorities hope to meet with Brothers this week to talk with him more about the incident.