ABC News has reported an odd story about how pilot David Zehntner was doing a flyby of his home in a Cessna 182 Skylane and caught a thief in the act. David has a vacation home in Franklin (North Carolina) and a main residence in LaBelle (Florida) that’s under the approach pattern for the nearby airport. For that reason, David always makes a low altitude pass over his home on his flying trips.
However and on his flight returning from Christmas vacation, David noticed a truck in the driveway. When he dropped down to 300 feet, he saw a guy walking around and looking into all of the windows and testing the doors of his home to see if he could get in.
On the fourth pass, the thief looked directly at the aircraft, but he still attached David’s utility trailer to his hitch and took off with it. David’s wife suggested landing on the road, but the aircraft had three hours of fuel left. So instead, David tried but failed to get in contact with the local airport while his wife tried calling the police on her cell (it was to noisy to talk) – all while following the thief in the Cessna.
The thief even stopped at a red light at a police station, but David had no way of alerting the police to the situation. When he saw the thief turn onto highway 80, David landed at the nearby airport and called the police who caught up with the thief.
Fifty-nine year old Gary Robert Haines was arrested, charged with grand theft and released on $2,500 bond (no doubt before the paperwork could be processed according to one sarcastic comment on the article…). Police also found several loaded rifles and a handgun in the vehicle (which they are investigating) while David got his trailer back.