Stolen Plane’s Pilot Hoped to be Shot Down
Posted: Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 3:24 pm
A man suspected of airplane theft flew carelessly from Canada across three states.
Adam Dylan Leon, 31, was arrested in Ellsinore, Missouri on Tuesday, after landing the single-engine, four-seat Cessna after a six-hour flight on Monday night. He landed the plane on a highway, taxied to a side road, and from there hitchhiked to a convenience store, where he was apprehended by authorities.
Leon told the state trooper who arrested him that he had hoped to be shot down. His intention was to commit suicide, but when he discovered he did not want to do it himself, he opted for flying over the United States, thinking he would be shot down and killed.
He was not surprised when the police officer arrested him, and reportedly stated that although he did not have any identification on him, he was the person they were after.
Leon, formerly named Yavuz Berke, was a native of Turkey but recently gained Canadian citizenship.
The stolen plane did not communicate with the flight pilots that intercepted the plane after it crossed into the state near the Michigan border. The F-16s watched for the plane after it was reported stolen Monday afternoon from Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay Intrnational Airport in Ontario.
The plane was tracked as a “flight safety issue” and was not believed to be a terrorist threat, Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs.
The pilot was aware of the F-16s’ presence, but refused to acknowledge anything they said and did not follow their orders.
Leon landed the plane around six hours after its theft was reported. He had enough fuel for approximately an eight hour flight, authorities say.
The plane’s path over Wisconsin prompted a brief, precautionary evacuation of the Wisconsin capitol in Madison, although there were few workers in the building at the time and the governor was not in town.
The Cessna 172 continued south over Illinois and eastern Missouri before landing near Ellsinore, about 120 miles south-southwest of St. Louis.