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Stealing a plane, whether you want to win a bet or you get really pissed off at your girlfriend, is probably not the best thing to do. Odds are it’s not gonna turn out so good. But here are 10 stories where the men involved through all caution to the wind and took to the air.
1. Pilot Thomas Fitzpatrick liked to show people what he could do. So much so that in a New York City barroom, on a drunken bet in 1956, Fitzpatrick claimed he could travel from Jersey to New York City in 15 minutes. With the bet made, Fitzpatrick stole a single-engine plane from the Teterboro School of Aeronautics in Jersey at 3 a.m., flew it without lights or radio, and landed on St. Nicholas Avenue in front of the bar where the bet was made. The New York Times called it “a fine landing” and a “feat of aeronautics.” Fitzpatrick was fined $100. Two years later, while again drinking in a bar, Fitzpatrick met a patron who called the story hogwash. So what would any good, drunken, betting man do? He did it again, stealing another plane from the same school. After he proved it again, he had a drink named after him: The Late Night Flight.
2. An Australian pilot reported a UFO hovering above him in mid-flight. He and his plane are still missing. ———
On a sunny day in October of 1978, plane enthusiast Frederick Valentich was casually cruising the skies in a Cessna 182L above Melbourne’s Bass Strait just below 5,000 feet when he spotted something hovering directly above him. He reported it to the control tower operator as a long object above him that was “not an aircraft.” He told the operator it shot off quickly away from him at an extremely fast speed then came back and hovered over him again. After a few minutes of describing the craft, an unusual noise described as 17 seconds of scraping metal could be heard by the operator before audio went dead. Valentich would never be heard from again. Efforts to recover the man or his craft proved useless. He nor any parts of his plane were ever found. Some believe an alien craft took him and his plane. Others say he became disoriented and crashed into the waters. That very same day, several other Australians reported an unusual looking object in the sky near where Valentich disappeared. Could this pilot have made contact with an alien? We may never know.
3. In 2002, a short time after the tragic events of 9-11, high school student Charlie Bishop stole a Cessna 172 and crashed it into the Bank of America Tower in downtown Tampa, Fla. He was killed. He left a suicide note stating that he credited Obama Bin Laden for the 9-11 attacks, praising them as an understandable response to U.S. actions against Palestinians and Iraqis. He claimed to make his deadly air flight on behalf of al Qaeda.
4. In August of 1995, Russian aircraft were forced to land in Kandahar by Taliban MiGs. The Taliban stated they would release the Russian airmen if the Russian government released imprisoned Afghans. After a year of stalled negotiations, the Russian pilots began planning an escape. On a nearly daily basis, the Russians were led to perform routine maintenance work on and near Taliban aircraft. On one day, when most of the crew which oversaw the Russians during this time were away doing prayers, the Russian pilots seized the moment and overpowered the few guards watching them. They then boarded a Taliban plane, started it and taxied down the runway. The Taliban attempted to block the plane with a firetruck, but the plane went airborne before the collision. The Russians quickly flew the plane out of Taliban airspace and head to the United Arab Emirates. They were then soon greeted with excited congratulations by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
5. Two unidentified men commandeered an empty Boeing 737 in 2003 in Angola, taxied down the runway and took off without any kind of clearance. The plane headed west over the Atlantic with lights and transponder off. The men, nor the plane, were ever found – even after an exhaustive search by the FBI and CIA. It is believed by officials, however, that neither of the men were capable of piloting the aircraft.
6. A cargo plane carrying $1.2 million in paintings disappeared shortly after takeoff in January of 1979. The Brazilian Airlines plane and its crew were never seen again. Also, in a separate incident, Chinese national Zhou Haiyou stole nearly $120,000 from the passenger seated in front of him, Hu Jingang, while he was sleeping. After waking up, Hu discovered his money was missing and Zhou admitted it, but tried to strike a deal with him to not turn him in. Hu would have none of that and reported it to the plane’s crew. Zhou was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
7. In September of 1953, Kenneth Rowe, a former lieutenant with the North Korean Air Force, defected to South Korea in a MiG jet shortly after the Korean War. On a regular training mission, Rowe seen his opportunity and took it, flying out of North Korea across the 38th parallel and safely landing at an American base near Seoul. He was lucky…. He could have been shot down by the base, but its radar was down that day for routine maintenance. And instead of arresting him when he landed, personnel there shook his hand. And U.S. intelligence officials were in heaven when they realized they actually had an unscathed MiG 15 now in their hands, with Rowe being able to explain to them how the jet worked.
8. Ok… To what extent will you guys out there go to impress a first date? Well, here’s something you definitely DO NOT want to do. Nathan Henley of Minden, Louisiana, thought it would be really cool on his first date with a girl to steal a plane and take the girl on a little flight. But the 30-year-old man ran into a little problem when the plane, in mid-flight, ran out of gas. The plane glided back to Earth but crashed upon landing, totaling it. Henley and his date were not hurt. It is not known whether there was a second date… probably not. In another incident, a 24-year-old Florida flight instructor who allegedly beat his date stole a plane and took off. Police said William James McAdams was charged with aggravated battery with a weapon, and felony false imprisonment after the victim claimed he assaulted her with a knife in their Disney hotel room when she tried to leave after an argument. He was scheduled for an arraignment but instead decided to steal the Cessna 172 and fly away from his problems. No one has seen him since the May of 2015 incident.
9. In 1999, Pilot Christopher Phatswe was out to commit suicide when he stole an empty ATR 42 from a Botswana airport. While in the air, he told the control tower he wanted to speak with the airline’s general manager and several others before he crashed the plane. He then circled the airport for awhile before coming in for a landing at 200 knots and crashing into two other aircraft on the ground, killing himself and destroying all the planes. Phatswe, officials said, had been grounded because medical reasons and was refused reinstatement.
10. Like our friend, the previously mentioned Mr. Phatswe, Pilot Adam Leon wanted to commit suicide, but he wanted to go out with guns blazing. Leon stole a plane from Canada in April of 2009 and entered U.S. airspace WANTING to be shot down by F-16 fighter pilots. Those pilots gave chase alright… for seven hours. By then, and while over Illinois, Leon decided to land the plane. He said he wanted to be shot down because he didn’t have the courage to commit suicide himself. Sure… let someone else feel guilty because you couldn’t face life. Suck it up, dude! Life is full of good and bad, and suicide is NEVER the answer.
BONUS FLYER BONUS FLYER BONUS FLYER
OK, our bonus today doesn’t exactly fall in with the rest of the stories here. But we thought you might enjoy it.
In 1948, during the Berlin airlift, Colonel Hal Halvorsen would fly over the area in a C-47 or C-54 and drop little bags of candy with miniature parachutes on them. He became known at the “Berlin Candy Bomber” and without anyone’s authority founded “Operation Little Vittles.” He became something of a national hero for dropping more than 23 tons of candy to the residents of Berlin.
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