Canadian light aircraft stolen; Wisconsin State Capitol evacuated

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a light aircraft
Image: Arpingstone.

The pilot who stole a light aircraft yesterday from Canada and landed in the central United States is now in custody.

Adam Dylan Leon, a 31-year-old Canadian citizen, stole a Cessna 172 Skyhawk light aircraft from an airfield in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. After taking off, the airplane went off course toward the United States. The State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin was briefly evacuated, but the aircraft went southwest of the city and personnel were allowed back in. Two F-16 fighters had been dispatched to follow the Cessna which later landed near US 60 in Ellsinore, Missouri, but NORAD spokesman Mike Kucharek said that the aircraft was not thought to be a terrorist threat.

Sgt. Marty Elmore, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol, says Leon was arrested about 9:30 CDT near the site of his landing. Leon is a person of Turkish origin who became a Canadian citizen in 2008 and changed his name from Yavuz Berke. Leon jumped a fence and stole the plane, according to local radio.

According to Kucharek, the aircraft began behaving erratically around 2:30 CDT. He also says the pilot, at the time unidentified, appeared to acknowledge the fighter craft but did not heed their instructions. Leon's motive is not known.

Managers at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, Wisconsin earlier said the facility was preparing for a forced landing of the aircraft, but the attempt to force it to land was scrubbed.

The aircraft later crossed the border out of Wisconsin and passed over Illinois north of the city of St. Louis, Missouri. It flew further south before landing in Ellsinore on Route 60, at which point the pilot fled on foot. Attempts to establish contact with or discern the intentions of the pilot were unsuccessful.

The distance from Thunder Bay to Ellsinore is 795.1 miles (1,280 km), near the reported maximum range of a Cessna 172, but authorities say the aircraft had two hours of fuel left. Only Leon is believed to have been on board the aircraft.


  Learn more about the Cessna 172 on Wikipedia.