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Pilot in allegedly stolen airplane makes unauthorized landing at LAX [Updated]

FBI officials are investigating an unauthorized landing at Los Angeles International Airport early Friday after a man allegedly stole a small plane with the intention to crash it into the ocean.

A source familiar with the case said that Skye Edward Turner, 23, allegedly took the Cirrus SR22 single-engine aircraft after a domestic argument and had planned to fly the plane into the ocean but reconsidered. [Update: An earlier version of this post misspelled Turner's first name as Syke.]

[Updated at 5:20 p.m: After Turner contacted LAX air traffic controllers about 2:25 a.m. while he was still outside the airport's airspace, controllers in San Diego issued instructions to help him descend and got clearance from LAX for the plane to land. The pilot aborted his first landing because he was coming in too fast, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.]

After touching down, the pilot was met by authorities from the Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Airport police.

[Updated at 1:50 p.m.: The aircraft had been flying for six hours before landing in Palm Springs, according to a source, where it was refueled and flown to Los Angeles. The pilot appeared to be incoherent, and was taken to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, where he was cleared physically and mentally by doctors to be booked, a source said.]

Turner claimed he had gotten the aircraft’s keys from an airport in San Diego County, a source said. The pilot was handed over to the Los Angeles Police Department, and the FBI was participating in the investigation, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Even though the incident turned out not to be terrorism, it showed that potential threats come not only from larger commercial planes but also small aircraft, said Marshall E. McClain, who heads the union representing the LAX police force.

The incident comes one day after a 53-year-old pilot, who had been battling the Internal Revenue Service for decades, plowed his single-engine Piper Cherokee into a Texas building housing IRS offices, killing at least one worker.

--Andrew Blankstein and Amina Khan

Comments () | Archives (16)

"Even though this incident turned out not to be terrorism, it showed that potential threats come not only from larger commercial planes but also small aircraft, said Marshall E. McClain, who heads the union representing the LAX police force."

I do wish people would think before they speak. Creating an environment of fear is good for a police union, especially one about to face staffing cuts. But the degree of "threat" from a small airplane flown by a distraught person is really no greater than the threat from an automobile when in the hands of a distraught person. In fact, the average car is heavier than the average light airplane. Please, let's all keep these issues in context and not add to the public's fears.


Easy . Shoot the idiot down . End of story . Next bozo , please .

Let's be glad that this distraught individual didn't crash into a 747 with 400 plus passengers. A small plan can certainly do a lot of damage.

Well, what's to prevent terrorists from utilizing private planes? none. I'm surprised nothing has happened using a private plane yet. It's very scary to think of the possibilities. We are very vulnerable.


Its pretty hard to get a car to explode into a fireball, unlike a Cirrus SR22 which carries 81 gallons of gasoline.

Thank you, Greg, for the reality check. Paranoia achieves nothing postive. Amazing that people with that perspective are in positions of authority.

Well spoken Greg, thanks for being realistic. A "terrorist" in the US or a freedom fighter in Iraq/Afghanistan could do far more damage with a car than a small plane.

Amen to the previous commenter. The fearmongering surrounding general aviation is reprehensible. Cars kill 40,000 Americans a year, and are universally accessible to *everyone*, but if "Homeland Security" types tried to use those numbers as justification for curtailing civil rights and increasing government budgets, they would quite rightly be laughed at.

But airplanes: ooh, scary and unfamiliar! Perfect justification for new bureaucratic empire-building.

I couldn't agree more with Greg's comment. The LAX police force is only looking out for their own jobs, nothing more.

Thank you Greg.

Your headline...what does an "unauthorized landing at LAX" mean in your understanding of the FAA rules? The pilot contacted arrivals apparently before he entered LAX airspace as you state, thus if LAX and San Diego controllers gave him clearance via radio communication, the pilot is authorized to proceed into the airspace legally, thus he was authorized to enter. I'm assuming that LAX then gave him a transponder code number and permission to land or special handling procedures.

I'm sort of guessing that you probably mean that he was not a scheduled arrival, but I'd also sort of guess that no flying vehicle is allowed to enter the Class B airspace LAX unless they contact the controllers operating this space and are give permission to enter the airspace. Once that happens the vehicle is legal to operate within the airspace.

If you visit this blog...could you please explain why the headline was posted as such...Unauthorized...where does this headline enter into the story?

"Even though the incident turned out not to be terrorism, it showed that potential threats come not only from larger commercial planes but also small aircraft, said Marshall E. McClain, who heads the union representing the LAX police force."

Huh? He was going to kill himself by crashing a very small plane into the Pacific Ocean. How does that show that small aircraft are a potential terrorism threat? We're talking about something that weighs less than an SUV. A terrorist could do far more damage by driving a pickup truck into a crowded Starbucks patio.

A guy had an argument with his wife. He stole a Honda Civic. He drove around for six hours, complying with traffic laws as he drove. As he drove, he thought about driving the car off a cliff into the ocean. After six hours, he stopped at a small gas station for fuel. He drove around some more. Then, after calling ahead for permission, he pulled into a big truck stop, parked the car, and confessed that he stole it.

The head of the police union said, "Even though this incident turned out not to be terrorism, it shows that potential threats come not only from larger commercial trucks but also small cars."

Wow! This story should be on page one...of the Onion.

You guys got it right... A rental truck poses a lot more danger then a small plane. Let's ban them....

Mr. Patrick Scott has an excellent point. As a pilot, and Cirrus SR-22 owner, I can request to fly in at LAX at any point. It's an airport just like any other. As long as one follows the procedures for that particular airspace, then there's nothing "unauthorized" about it.

There is, obviously, the fact that he stole the airplane, and also that he does not have a valid pilot's license. I believe those are the main things he'll be accountable for.

@ Greg, and the others who think the airport police union president was reaching when he spoke about a small plane being such a threat:

1) As someone has already pointed out, he could have flown that plane into a Jumbo Jet with hundreds of people onboard. Try doing that with a car.

2) Someone could steal a cropduster, fill it with toxins, and go flying over a
sporting event, just spraying away. Or, even more likely, steal a small plane and drop easily made Molotov cocktails out of it right onto the crowd. Again, that could do much more damage than a car could.

3) Google "Austin TX, IRS, small plane" and read the results you get. If that guy had picked the right side of the building, the body count would have been a lot higher.

4) No employees at the airport, the port or the DWP are in danger of being laid off. In fact, the mayor has ordered that city workers that are about to be laid off instead be transferred to one of these three city departments (also known as "proprietary agencies", because they make their own money through the services they provide and charge for) precisely because they are not in financial peril. As the head of the airport police union, he would have known that. Therefore, this couldn't have been the reason behind the officer's comments.

The officer made a true, informed and well-intentioned statement. I would think that he would be a little better informed about the threats facing aviation today than most of the people posting here. The only thing I wonder about is why the Times is quoting the police union, and not the official management over there regarding an event like this one.


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