Kenneth Mazik, 25, of Chadds Ford, crashed through a gate at Philadelphia International Airport on March 1 and led police on a runway chase at speeds topping 100 mph.
"You're very lucky—you and the 43 people on the incoming plane and the people about to take off," U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg told Mazik. "This could have been a disaster ... (that left) you in jail for the rest of your life."
Mazik, a University of Delaware graduate with a young son, said he was under stress and addicted to the attention-deficit drug Adderal at the time. He also had battled depression after his father died when Mazik was 16.
"I medicated with Adderall, and it just made it worse, made it worse, made it worse," Mazik said in court.
Before the airport arrest, Mazik had been committed to a hospital for three days by a family member, only to resume using Adderall as soon as he got out, Goldberg said. And the judge remained concerned Wednesday about Mazik's avid interest in conspiracy-theory websites focused on outer space. His computer use will be monitored during three years of probation after prison.
Mazik will tap into a trust fund and other assets that top $1 million to pay the restitution, which is due within 90 days. He must report to prison in a month.
Friends described him as a good person and athlete who lost his way amid the substance abuse.
Goldberg concluded that Mazik had no intent to harm anyone during the foggy morning at the airport when he smashed runway lights and nearly took out an antenna that controlled airport functions. The judge said he believed that Mazik was delusional or hallucinating.
An alert air traffic controller may have averted a collision when he spotted something on his radar—it was Mazik's Jeep—and immediately sent the approaching US Airways commuter jet back into the air.
Mazik later fought with law enforcement officers who arrested him. Dozens of flights were delayed. And earlier that morning, Mazik had been seen driving the wrong way toward oncoming traffic, Goldberg said.
The magistrate judge sentenced Mazik slightly below the 18- to 24-month guideline range, and said he would still have plenty of time to help raise his 2-year-old son.
Goldberg noted that many addicts who appear in court have no father, no trust fund and no supportive family or friends.
Mazik, a muscular former athlete, said he hopes to become a coach and youth counselor when he leaves prison.