Mississippi officials said they were relieved when airport workers on board the stolen plane landed safely after circling the city of Tupelo for five hours, flying erratically and threatening to crash into a Walmart. I sighed.
The man who stole the plane, 29-year-old Cory Wayne Patterson, was arrested after he landed the plane in a soybean field. has been indicted for threatening a person, and could face federal criminal charges.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced on Twitter shortly after 10:30 am CDT:The situation was resolved and there were no injuries.”
Police say Patterson worked for Tupelo Aviation for 10 years. According to Cuaka, he had flight training, but he didn’t know how to land.
According to Cuaka, it was not immediately clear why Patterson took off in a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air C90A full of fuel just after 5am. Fifteen minutes later, Patterson called his 911 dispatcher in Lee County to tell him he was going to slam the plane into Tupelo and Walmart, Cuaka said. Officers evacuated people from Walmart and his nearby convenience store.
Cuaka said the airport’s towers were not staffed until 6 a.m., which was likely a “crime of opportunity.”
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Reeves warned residents near Tupelo, Mississippi, to “be on your guard.”
Patterson said he didn’t know how to land, but officials were about to get Patterson to land the plane safely in Tupelo, Cuaka said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. Officials even called in a civilian pilot for assistance.
But Patterson abandoned that plan and instead flew north, eventually bringing the aircraft to the ground, Cuaka said. The plane landed near Ripley, Mississippi, about 85 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee and about 45 miles northwest of Tupelo, Tennessee.
The plane was damaged, but “believe it or not, it’s intact,” Cuaka said.
Cuaka said Patterson posted what appeared to be a goodbye message on Facebook around 9:30 a.m.
Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan said at one point Patterson contacted his family during the flight.
Magazine editor Leslie Criss, who lives in Tupelo, woke up early to watch the situation on TV and on social media. Some of her friends were outside watching the plane circle over her head.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in this town,” Chris said. “It’s a horrible way to wake up on a Saturday morning.”
Michael Canders, director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State University in New York, called the incident a “wake-up call” for general aviation airports and their staff.
Contributions: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, Associated Press