Pilot scares town trying to impress grandmother

GENESEO, Ill. -- As a military plane swooped over an Illinois town, frightened residents called police, but a relative said later that the pilot just wanted to impress his grandmother.

Witnesses said Maj. Whitney Sieben made at least four low passes and performed loops and barrel rolls Thursday over Geneseo, a town of 6,400 in western Illinois.

Sieben said he had permission from air traffic control to deviate from his flight plan. He said he was flying about 350 mph and never dropped below 2,000 feet.

His aunt, Kay Sieben, told The Dispatch of Moline that he "wanted to do a flyover for his Grandma Sieben." He was accompanied by a smaller plane flown by his uncle, state Sen. Todd Sieben.

Windows rattled, homes shook, and residents poured into the streets downtown. Local law agencies said they received about 100 phone calls.

"One woman was in tears, wondering what was happening," Henry County Sheriff Gib Cady said.

Maj. Sieben, a flight instructor with the Oregon Air National Guard, made the flyover while on his way from Denver to an Air National Guard base in Springfield to complete instrument proficiency training.

The Defense Department, which is handling the case, did not immediately return a phone message requesting comment.