Pilot in custody after landing stolen Cessna in Missouri following long air pursuit

April 7th, 2009 - 10:48 am ICT by admin  

Cessna 172 plane UNITED STATES / CANADA (BNO NEWS) — A Cessna 172 airplane was reported stolen from a flight school in Thunder Bay, Canada on Monday afternoon, illegally entered U.S. airspace and has now landed in Missouri, FAA and other officials tell BNO News.

The airplane theft was first reported at 2.55 p.m. local time after it took off from Confederation College at Thunder Bay International Airport in Canada, according to Laura Craig who is a spokeswoman for the airport. “Confederation College officials reported the theft immediately and requested the assistance of Thunder Bay Police,” a statement read. “The aircraft was tracked by radar and crossed into U.S. airspace,” she added. Craig also said that the college is cooperating with Thunder Bay Police to recover the airplane and identify the individual flying the airplane.

In the United States, multiple agencies such as the Federal Aviation Authority, NORAD and the U.S. Air Force are closely following the situation. “They believe its one of the students and we’ve been tracking the aircraft since it entered U.S. airspace and we are still tracking it, he is currently over central Wisconsin,” FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told BNO News earlier. She later told BNO News that the aircraft had since entered Illinois airspace. Only one person was believed to be on board. Brown also said that attempts to make contact with the pilot have failed and it is unclear what his intentions are.

Two F-16 fighter jets quickly intercepted the aircraft after it entered U.S. airspace, a spokesman for NORAD confirmed. At around 9.50 p.m. Eastern Time, the aircraft landed on a dirt road next to Highway 60 in Missouri, near the town of Ellsinore. The suspect initially fled the scene but was arrested near the scene, a dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Office told BNO News. “A short while ago, we dont know the exact time, the pilot was taken into custody,” the dispatcher said. “They are taking him to Butler County in Missouri, the Highway Patrol is taking him there,” she added.

According to an official at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, authorities were earlier preparing to force the plane to land at the airport. “They were apparently going to force an airplane to land here but [it was] called off about a quarter to five. Nothing happened here,” he said. Dozens of emergency vehicles were dispatched to the airport but have since left. He had no other information about the plane.

Due to the ongoing incident, the Wisconsin Capitol was briefly evacuated. According to the Associated Press, the building was evacuated out of precaution due to the stolen aircraft in the area. People were being ordered to stay at least one block away from the building and police cars with sirens were driving around the Capitol.

NORAD said the incident is not believed to be terrorism related and CNN reported that the pilot, who they say is 31-year-old Yavuz Berke, may have been suicidal. According to the network, he was commonly known as Adam Leon. While there was no further information on the suspect, a news report from 2008 said he apparently lost his license and vehicle for 7-days after being clocked at 160 km/hr in a 90-zone. The FBI was also investigating the incident but said it would not release any statement.

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