ATLANTA (AP) _ A man has pleaded guilty to fondling a 10-year-old boy who was sitting next to him on an airplane flight from Arizona to Georgia, federal officials said Wednesday.

Edward Jeffrey Oates, 37, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., was arrested Feb. 10 after the boy sought help from another passenger, said U.S. Attorney Richard H. Deane Jr.

Witnesses said Oates approached the boy about 30 minutes into the America West flight from Phoenix to Atlanta and sat down next to him. The boy's parents were seated elsewhere on the plane, Deane said.

Oates was arrested at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport shortly after landing. He was indicted Feb. 25 on a federal charge of abusive sexual contact with a minor because the incident took place on an airplane.

Oates pleaded guilty Tuesday after witnesses and the boy testified about the incident before a federal judge in Atlanta.

A sentencing date was set for July 22.