Stokely denies that he altered his tail number. He says he puts tape over the numbers to make them easier to clean after they've been dirtied by the helicopter's black exhaust smoke. After a flight, he'd strip off the tape to reveal the clean numbers — but on the day the agents observed him, he forgot to take off the little piece that covered part of the "Q."

"It was an accident," he maintains.

He claims he never flew the R44 himself after his pilot's license was revoked, saying, on July 30, his intention had been only to take a 10-minute flight to ensure the vehicle was performing perfectly before his son was scheduled to fly it to Tulsa. Finally, Stokely also denies he has dementia, chalking up his failures to convince FAA doctors that he was flight-worthy to nervousness and poor math skills. On the contrary, he says, he's in great shape and "very few men can stay with me mentally or physically."

Behind bars: A Robinson R44 'copter, like the one seized from Bill Stokely.
New Times Photo Illustration
Behind bars: A Robinson R44 'copter, like the one seized from Bill Stokely.

Stokely first says the FAA medical exam was triggered by complaints that he buzzed the Forest Highlands country club with his helicopter. A Forest Highlands resident interviewed by New Times says several people complained to the club after Stokely flew about 50 feet over the driving range and performed a 360-degree turning maneuver.

But Stokely calls back later to say he'd gotten his timelines wrong — the FAA medical check was routine and had nothing to do with the overflight.

"I got past the golf-course issue," he says.

Reid Pixler, an assistant U.S. Attorney handling the forfeiture of Stokely's helicopter, says government seizure of an aircraft is not unusual in cases that allege altering a tail number, though he agrees most such cases involve "international drug-dealing." Still, Pixler says, after going through the facts in the Stokely case, he believes it's "appropriate" that Stokely forfeit his helicopter.

Whatever Stokely's upcoming punishment, he doesn't plan for it to end his flying career.

"I have used up six helicopters in my lifetime," he says. "I'm sure that, in the future, there will be a number seven or number eight."

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help

As a licensed and current pilot, this saddens me. I hope the idiot Feds give him a break. Meanwhile, at the FAA office, their motto is "We are not happy, till your not happy"!


"Eccentric Ad Man".............yeah, so what's the big deal? They apparently do not know Bill. I have known Bill since 1983. "License", when has Bill needed a license to do anything...ever. The article just proves they do not know Bill. If ALL parties had taken the time to know him, he would still have the helo giving them rides. He also would be working for Arizona Highways as his copter gets him to places most of us will never see in our lifetimes. Ask him to show you his pictures of the state. Get to know him, give him his helo back...ask him to give you a ride


I'm impressed that your reporter was able to diagnose whether or not he had Alzheimer's in one interview. Especially since the condition is often intermittent at first and people are often very skilled at concealing the symptoms for short periods,.

Having worked in occupations requiring lengthy home visits to people for many years, I can remember a few cases where I was fully taken in.  How come he isn't waving a medical report, if he's all that competent?

If the accusation is true, he could kill a lot of people while flying. Would you be as supportive if it was a poor guy continuing to drive and altering his plates, after being banned on medical grounds?


sounds like the feds want a helicopter.   


My father-in-law had a copter and used it to take his family camping in the South Dakota badlands, landing in places that were truly unexplored. The helicopter is one of the best human inventions ever. Despite that, I'm OK with the Feds wanting to know where you're going when you take off in one. And buzzing the country club crowd will always be considered bad form.


@DodgyMerchant Read the article again -- I didn't "diagnose" anyone. I said he sounded lucid during my phone interview with him, which is true.


DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@number6  "I'm OK with the Feds wanting to know where you're going when you take off in one"

Feel free to surrender YOUR OWN rights and privacy anytime.


@raystern @DodgyMerchant Comment, not a criticism. I found that people often can, especially if they get to pick the subject & if it is something they talk about a lot.

Suddenly, when it becomes unfamiliar territory, or due to gradual fade of concentration, a bell can start to ring.

ExpertShot topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @number6 Mr. Hotay: The airspace above us is "public", as in owned by the government.  Individuals don't own that just like they don't own the road (although some certainly behave as if they do).  The reason pilots file flight plans is a good one, for reasons I won't go into here cause you can google them.  

Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web