Image: Calvin Cox
AP
Calvin C. Cox, 51, is charged with stealing and crashing a private airplane.
updated 12/28/2009 6:28:26 PM ET 2009-12-28T23:28:26

A homeless man trying to leave town in a stolen plane crashed the single-engine aircraft on a municipal airport runway without ever leaving the ground, police said.

Calvin C. Cox, 51, wanted to fly away from Frederick early Monday but ended up in jail instead, unable to make bail, authorities said. He remained in custody after a District Court Commissioner set his bail at $10,000 on felony charges including theft, burglary and trespassing.

Cox wasn't hurt when the Piper Super Cub ran off a runway at Frederick Municipal Airport and upended in the grass at about 2:15 a.m. Monday, police said. A canine team tracked him into nearby woods, Frederick Police Lt. Clark A. Pennington said.

Cox appeared before the court official without an attorney and none had been appointed Monday afternoon.

Pennington said police believe, from talking with Cox, that he wanted to leave the Frederick area but added that a motive for the alleged plane theft was unclear. The Frederick police official said Cox had lived in a tent in the nearby woods and somehow become familiar enough with the airport and airplanes that he was able to get inside a hangar and start the aircraft.

"He was familiar with aircraft but I don't believe he was proficient in the operation of aircraft," Pennington added.

The two-seat Piper, owned by the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association, sustained damage to its engine and propeller, club President Michael H. Higgins said.

Higgins said club members don't know Cox.

Member Lance Nuckolls said the hangar had been locked and that starting the Piper would have required activating several switches and a starter button in the correct sequence.

"You don't just stumble on it and figure it out," he said. "You have to be trained to do that."

Cox is not listed in FAA airmen certification records as a licensed pilot or mechanic. He could have learned about airplanes, though, by working for a certified mechanic, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters.

FBI spokesman Richard J. Wolf said his agency was advised of the incident but wasn't actively involved in the investigation.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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