FORT PAYNE, Ala. — A 14-year-old boy stole a Cessna and went on a late-night joy ride, taking off and landing twice before being arrested, police said.
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The teen suffered minor cuts and bruises on the second landing because the plane came down hard, causing the landing gear to collapse and the propeller to dig into a road beside the airport, police said.
The teen allegedly took his mother’s van from their home Wednesday night and drove to the airport in Fort Payne about five miles away. He said he then found the key in the unlocked plane, removed the Cessna’s tie-downs, started the engine, and began driving around.
“The next thing he knew he was in the air,” Police Chief David Walker said.
The teen, who police said had never before flown a plane, was in the air for nearly 30 minutes.
Police charged him with theft and took him to a juvenile lockup. The teen was not identified because of his age.
Authorities said the theft raised questions about security.
“We’ve never had a problem before with planes being stolen, so I guess we have been a little lax in our security,” said Larry Noble Cowart, who owns Valley Aviation, which runs the airport and owns the plane.
Cowart said the teen could have entered through the typically unlocked airport gate or climbed a fence.
Fort Payne is a town of 13,000 people located about 80 miles northeast of Birmingham.
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