Monday 26 February 2024

Homeless man steals private plane for joyride ‘to try to prove a point’

A homeless man who stole a small private plane in California and took it for a joyride before crashing was trying to prove a point about security, officials have said.

Luis Gustavo Aires, 50, was arrested on the 8th of February at around 5pm after he allegedly stole a plane from Palo Alto Airport (PAO / KPAO) and flew it 25 miles. A short time later, the 50-year-old was forced to make an emergency landing on a beach in Half Moon Bay that left the aircraft upended with its nose touching the ground and its tail in the air.

Following his arrest, Aires told investigators he stole the $150,000 fixed-wing aircraft, which was not seriously damaged, to “show the government that airports lack proper security”, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office said.

The 50-year-old was allegedly able to access the aircraft without a key, it had been reported, after squeezing through a gap in the airport’s perimeter fence, which looked to have been cut open.

Aires stole the plane from an airport in Palo Alto before crash landing on a beach in Half Moon Bay a short time later. He was arraigned in court on Tuesday afternoon in San Mateo County. Aires reportedly told investigators he learned to fly in his native Brazil.

He also told a judge that his real name is “Sunrock”. Authorities said that the 50-year-old was found with identification for three other individuals when he was arrested.
Evidence suggests the thief first attempted to steal a Cirrus SR22T from the same ramp.

He was charged with identity theft and stealing a plane and has pleaded not guilty. At his initial court appearance, Aires told Judge Rebecca Woodson that he wanted to represent himself, but she denied his request.

Bail was set at $10,000. A preliminary hearing is set for later in February.

Aircraft Information:
Owner / Operator: Eyes Outside LLC
Aircraft: American Champion 7GCAA Citabria Adventure
Registration: N466AC
Serial Number: 446-2000
Engine: 1 X Lycoming 0-320 Series
First Flew: 9th January 2000
Age: 24.1 Months. 

This incident comes just weeks after a deadly plane crash into Half Moon Bay last month.
Four people were believed to have been on the plane at the time, which was seen flying erratically over the water east of the Moss Beach Distillery on the 15th of January.

The plane later crashed into the ocean. So far, three bodies have been recovered near the site of the crash. Federal investigators said they believe four people were aboard the single-engine Cozy Mark IV when it went down in the evening just south of San Francisco. No survivors were found and only one body had been recovered from the waters near Half Moon Bay and identified as of Thursday.

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