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Friday, August 5, 2011

Theft of a Plane near Alabama coast

Theft is a common crime that gets reported everyday in newspapers and news channels.   In criminal law, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's freely-given consent. Generally, articles of high value and small in size, attract thieves more – example diamond, gold jewellery etc., also those articles which have high commercial use are most likely to get stolen – eg., mobile phones.  Thieves strike at opportune moments and the article vanishes in thin air without a trace.   It is always agony for the owner !

Generally big articles are not stolen for the simple reason that they would be difficult to be taken away and more difficult to be disposed off.  There have been instances of bizarre thefts ! which include big fixed installations, wild animals and more.    In Czech Republic, once a four tonne unused bridge was once reported stolen presumably for scrap.  The incident is unlikely to have occurred on a single day and perpetrators perhaps would have worked a number of days. 

Far away, it is reported in Lousiana that a single engine plane has been stolen from a small airport near the Alabama Gulf coast.  Even a small plane is not small and only expert personnel can fly it – there are very many regulations monitoring, controlling and regulating air traffic and still somebody could move it without a trace !  it is feared that the plane could have crashed off Plaquemines Parish near the  Gulf of Mexico. The plane reportedly belonged to Gulf Air Centre Inc which has a flight school at the Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores, Ala.  The owner reported that a private pilot stole the airplane. 

Those in search including  Coast Guard found no evidence that the 45-year-old Piper Cherokee PA-28-140 had crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. It was reported that the four-seat airplane carried a full load of fuel, enough to keep it aloft about 4 1/2 hours or carry it about 460 nautical miles.

The Piper PA-28 Cherokee is a family of light aircraft designed for flight training, air taxi, and personal use.   It was a product of Piper Aircraft.  These crafts  are all-metal, unpressurized, single-engine, piston-powered airplanes with low-mounted wings and tricycle landing gear. They all have a single door on the co-pilot side, which is entered by stepping on the wing.  The first PA-28 received its type certificate from the FAA in 1960, and the series remains in production to this day.  The PA-28 series  has many competitors including  Cessna 172, the Grumman American AA-5 series, and the Beechcraft Musketeer.

Following the trail of events, the airplane is reported to have departed the Baldwin County airport at 7:05 a.m., FAA air traffic controllers in Houston contacted the Coast Guard in New Orleans after seeing the airplane descend about 600 feet in three minutes and drop off radar about 11 a.m.  There are reports that  the airplane was last seen about 100 nautical miles southeast of New Orleans, over the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard dispatched a MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from its air station in Belle Chasse; and an HC-144 Ocean Century airplane and the 87-foot cutter Cobia, both based in Mobile, Ala.  However after search, the  Coast Guard found no signs of a downed aircraft or a debris field in the vicinity of the aircraft's last known position.  There is no clue as to where the suspected the pilot might have headed for.  Latest reports suggest that the Coast Guard has suspended its search after more than 52 hours and it is believed  that the craft could have crashed in the Gulf of mexico.

In an earlier instance, the loss of aircraft was pinned on ‘barefoot bandit’.   Colton A. "Colt" Harris-Moore is a criminal and former fugitive from Camano Island, Washington. He was charged with the thefts of small aircraft, a boat, and two cars and in the burglaries of at least 100 private residences in various locations around the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada. He fled to the Bahamas on July 4, 2010, allegedly in a plane stolen from Bloomington, Indiana.  He was indicted on July 6, 2010, by a U.S. Federal Court in Seattle, Washington, on charges of transporting another stolen aircraft in that state. Harris-Moore was arrested in Harbour Island, Bahamas, on July 11, 2010, after police shot out the engine of the boat in which he was attempting to flee.  Two days later, he was deported from Nassau, Bahamas, to Miami, Florida.  On 17th June 2011 Federal prosecutors recommended that Harris-Moore be sentenced to 6 years in prison and  Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to seven felony charges against him.

He became known as the "Barefoot Bandit" by reportedly committing some of his crimes barefoot; despite the widely-reported nickname, officials said that he more often wore shoes.

More than the punishment, such thefts raises questions on the security of general aviation and the possible repercussions if they fall in to wrong hands of those opposed to Govt, and its policies. 


Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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