updated 12/3/2007 10:15:41 PM ET 2007-12-04T03:15:41

A man accused of stealing a twin-engine plane and driving it down the taxiway staged the stunt while he was drunk to impress his girlfriend, police said.

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Michael Santos, 38, was charged Friday with theft, criminal mischief and operating a vehicle after his driving privileges had previously been forfeited for life.

Santos, who is being held in the LaPorte County Jail on $2,000 bond, is accused of driving to the LaPorte Municipal Airport despite a lifetime ban on his driving privileges.

According to police reports, Santos was drunk when he took his girlfriend to the airport Sept. 9 to show her that he could fly a plane. They climbed into the plane and were heading down the taxiway when, Santos told police, flames began shooting from the left engine.

He said he turned off all the switches and veered into a soybean field.

Damage to the aircraft was estimated at $160,000.

Police said the plane traveled a half mile along a taxiway before it missed the curve leading to the runway, chopping up soybeans with the propeller before getting stuck in the field.

LaPorte Police Detective Tom Thate said an anonymous tip from someone who overheard a man claiming he tried taking a plane for a ride led police to Santos.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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