Airport employee steals plane and threatens to crash into store

In the United States, an airport employee who knew how to take off but not land, stole a small plane on Saturday and threatened to crash into a Walmart, circling for five hours over nervous Mississippians before ending the flight in security in a soy field where the police arrested him.

Cory Wayne Patterson, 29, was not injured after the crash shortly after he posted a farewell message to his parents and sister on Facebook, officials said at a news conference. The message said he “never really wanted to hurt anyone.”

After an anxious morning watching the plane’s winding path, Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan called the resolution “the best case scenario.”

Nobody was hurt.

Patterson was hired to fuel planes at Tupelo Regional Airport, giving him access to the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air C90A, Police Chief John Quaka said.

It was not immediately known why, shortly after 5 am, the 10-year-old Tupelo Aviation employee took off on the fully fueled plane. Fifteen minutes later, Patterson called a Lee County 911 dispatcher to say he planned to crash the plane into a Tupelo Walmart, Quaka said. Officers evacuated people from Walmart and a nearby convenience store.

“It’s more likely to be a crime of opportunity,” Quaka said, adding that the airport tower doesn’t open until 6am.

Jordan said Patterson contacted family members during the flight. The mayor said he hopes Patterson “gets the help he needs.”

“Sorry everyone. I never really wanted to hurt anyone. I love my parents and my sister, it’s not your fault. Goodbye,” read Patterson’s Facebook message posted around 9:30am.

Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the vulnerability of small airports, which service small planes and corporate jets, has worried security experts for years.

“If you have a trained pilot who can go in and take a business jet, you have a very lethal weapon,” he said.

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