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Stolen Plane Lands At LAX

DAISY NGUYEN   02/19/10 09:14 PM ET   AP

Stolen Plane Lax

LOS ANGELES — A man with an expired student pilot license allegedly stole a single-engine plane from a small airfield near San Diego, flew it north and made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport early Friday, authorities said.

Skye E. Turner had to abort his first landing attempt because he was coming in too fast, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. He landed the Cirrus SR22 safely on his second attempt at about 3 a.m.

Firefighters and airport police were waiting on the tarmac.

The incident came a day after a Texas man with a grudge against the Internal Revenue Service slammed his small plane into an Austin office building that housed nearly 200 IRS employees. The pilot, Andrew Joseph Stack III, and one person inside the building were killed in an attack that highlighted the lack of security at small airfields.

The Los Angeles Times, citing an unidentified person familiar with the investigation, reported that Turner was distraught following an argument with his girlfriend and intended to crash the plane into the ocean.

Turner, 23, contacted air traffic controllers at around 2:30 a.m. to request permission to land at LAX while flying at 11,500 feet some 40 miles east of the airport, authorities said.

An air traffic controller who guided Turner to safety said the young man appeared "confused and disoriented but could follow instruction," said Melvin Davis, a controllers union spokesman.

Turner was arrested on suspicion of stealing a plane and was being held on $20,000 bail, police spokesman Cleon Joseph said.

Authorities brought him to a hospital for psychological evaluation because he appeared incoherent, said Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. After being cleared medically, Turner was taken into police custody for questioning.

FBI agents were evaluating whether Turner committed a federal crime, spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. Turner has an expired student pilot license, the FAA said.

It wasn't known whether any flights were disrupted by Friday's incident. Commercial flights generally do not operate at the airport during the overnight hours.

An employee who answered the phone at Coast Flight Training and Management, based in Montgomery Field in San Diego County, said the plane belonged to one of the school's clients. The employee, who declined to give his name, said the plane had been parked behind a fence on airport property.

Eric Midby, the chief operating officer for flight school, said in a written statement that the school was cooperating with authorities. He declined further comment.

Joseph said he didn't know if Turner has an attorney. A call to a Skye Turner of Oceanside wasn't immediately returned.

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Filed by Billy Silverman  |