Man caught after plane taken from Canada to Missouri

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WAUSAU, Wis. -- A single-engine airplane flown away from an airport in Canada by a student pilot Monday was intercepted by jet fighters over Wisconsin but kept flying south through two more states. It finally landed on a road in Southeast Missouri and the pilot was apprehended.

The pilot hadn't communicated with authorities through the entire flight. The incident caused the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison to be evacuated as a precaution as the plane flew through that section of the state.

Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado, said the Cessna 172 was stolen from Thunder Bay, Ontario, about 2:30 p.m. Monday. The pilot was flying erratically and didn't communicate with the fighter pilots from the Wisconsin Air National Guard who intercepted the plane at the Michigan-Wisconsin border, he said.

The pilot had acknowledged seeing the F-16s but he didn't obey their nonverbal commands to follow them, Kucharek said.

The pilot finally landed the plane on a road at Ellsinore near Poplar Bluff, Mo., said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sgt. Marty Elmore, Missouri State Highway Patrol public information officer, said a man was taken into custody about 9:30 p.m. in the Ellsinore area. He identified him as Adam Dylan Leon, 31, but didn't have a hometown for him.

Brown said the plane came from the Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay International Airport.

Major Brian Markin with the North American Aerospace Defense Command said the plane landed at 8:45 p.m. CST. That meant it was in the air just over six hours since the reported theft.

"We tailed it all the way," he said. "Once it landed our aircraft returned to base."

Kucharek said the plane had enough fuel to fly for nearly eight hours. The Web site cessna.com indicated the Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a four-seater with a range of about 790 miles and top speed of 141 mph.

In Madison, Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh said the state Capitol building was evacuated shortly after 5 p.m. as a precaution because of the airplane.

Many workers had already left for the day. Gov. Jim Doyle was not in the building. He had been in Chicago Monday.

Capitol police ordered everyone out of the building and told them to go at least a block away. Police cars with sirens on drove on the sidewalks by the doors of the Capitol. Others drove on the streets of the Capitol square, telling people to move away.

People were allowed back in the building about an hour later.


AP writers Todd Richmond in Madison and James Carlson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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