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

February 19, 2010 |  1:29 pm

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