A Florida man, identified as Luiz Gustavo Aires, managed to steal a plane from Palo Alto Airport before crashing it in Half Moon Bay on Thursday. The incident has left authorities and aviation experts baffled, as Aires was not a licensed pilot. The stolen aircraft, a 1960s Citabria, was found nose-down in the sand near Poplar Beach.
Sergeant Javier Acosta of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office expressed his astonishment, stating, “Been doing this almost 20 years and this is a first for me.” Investigators believe Aires gained access to the airport by cutting open a fence, which a worker was seen repairing on Friday afternoon.
Aviation expert Ross Aimer, who examined the case, revealed that Aires was not listed in the registered database of pilots. However, Aimer speculated that Aires must have possessed some knowledge of the aircraft, commonly referred to as a “tail dragger.” He explained that landing such planes can be challenging, as evidenced by the crash onto the beach. Aimer suggested that Aires likely attempted to land on the sand, but the propeller caught the ground, causing the plane to nosedive.
Aimer also highlighted the ease with which the 1960s Citabria can be stolen, stating, “May not even have a conventional ignition stick, so easy to hot-wire.”
Fortunately, no individuals on the beach were harmed during the crash. Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office arrested Aires as he was walking away from the crash site.
Aires has been booked and charged with airplane theft. The incident has raised concerns about airport security and the vulnerability of certain aircraft models to unauthorized access.