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Airplane theft raises questions about Palo Alto Airport security

The bizarre theft of an airplane from the Palo Alto Airport, that later landed on a Half Moon Bay beach, is raising a lot of questions about airport security.

A 50-year-old man from Florida, Luis Gustavo Aires, stole a single-engine plane and ultimately landed near Poplar Beach, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said.

Something pilots were surprised about as they said the Palo Alto Airport has a pretty straight forward entry procedure.

“It is pretty unusual. You do hear about it every now and then, but it’s every few years, it doesn’t happen that often,” said pilot Scott Richardson. “So if you’re a pilot you will probably know how to get on to the fields directly. Getting into the airplanes is another matter. Many airplanes are, unfortunately, easy to get into.”

Aviation expert Mike McCarron agrees, saying it’s not much different than stealing a car.

“So that’s something that needs to be looked into by Palo Alto, how he had access to the ramp where the aircraft was parked,” he said. 

McCarron adds, a witness description of the flight and landing, says a lot about the level of expertise needed to fly a getaway.

“It came back around and down to the beach and again, it was flying really low   Landed, sort of.  And then the tail sort of … the nose plunked into the sand. The guy hopped out. Said he ‘ran out of gas’ and walked away,” said witness Ryan Gross. 

“As far as flying the plane, a plane wants to fly themselves, basically. If you get enough speed, the plane will fly low, and so he did have some knowledge to keep the plane level,” said McCarron.  

The city, as well as county agencies, are looking into those issues. The FAA and NTSB are not involved because, while it was a rough flight and landing, it is not considered a crash.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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