You probably already know about the 31-year-old Canadian who stole a Cessna 172 from a flying school in Thunder Bay and headed south across Lake Superior to the US, where he was intercepted by but did not respond to American F-16 fighter jets. He landed of his own accord on a road in Missouri, where he parked the airplane under a bridge and ran on foot to a convenience store where he bought a Gatorade and chatted with locals until the police came in and got him. This CBC story has less information but includes photographs of both Adam Leon and the airplane.
His story is that he wanted to commit suicide, but couldn't bring himself to harm himself, so planned his cross-border foray in order to goad the Americans into shooting him down. Some news stories say that he had been treated for depression and left a good-bye note for his girlfriend or a suicide note near the hangar.
I can picture his well-meaning flight instructor teaching him to ensure he has a transponder code and two-way radio contact with ATC when in close proximity to the US border. "If you don't," the flight instructor could easily have said, "the Americans may scramble intercept jets, and if you do not tune 121.5 and do exactly as they ask, they have the right to shoot you down for entering their airspace." Is there a Canadian flight instructor who hasn't given such a warning to students who will be flying near or crossing the border on a cross-country flight? Adam would probably also have known where to find the intercept signals in the CFS, to understand and respond to intercepting aicraft without the use of a radio.
My favourite little detail was that Adam reportedly landed with thirty minutes of fuel remaining. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I like to think that his flight instructor drilled air law into him so thoroughly that even while suicidally defying an international boundary and armed jets, he couldn't disobey the mandate to land with half an hour of gas in his tanks.
Serious credit must go to the American military for their measured reaction to the incident. The population is very easily frightened by things like this. They evacuated the Senate in Wisconsin, after all. But no one got shot down, or shot at all. The guy was arrested for the only crimes he had actually committed: transporting stolen property and illegally entering the country. The FBI found no links to terrorism in his background. He'll likely be sent back to Canada. (Good thing he wasn't an American picked up by the RCMP in Canada. They probably would have tasered him to death). Given a history of depression and a self-confessed suicide attempt, he will lose his Canadian medical and possibly never get it back, so he'll need a new career.
The accompanying conspiracy theory is that rather than being a mentally ill flight student, he's an Islamic terrorist testing the system. He immigrated to Canada from Turkey last year, and used to be named Yavuz Berke. Did his six hours in the Falcons' gunsights give him a chance to think things over and return to a rational appreciation for life, such that the strangest thing the Missourians noticed about him was that he asked to use a "washroom" instead of a "bathroom"? (What's up with that, anyway? Is that something Missourian? Bathroom, washroom, toilet, restroom ... would any of these mark someone as "not from around here, are you?" in your community?)
An argument the linked blog entry didn't notice is that Adam Leon spent money in Missouri. While Americans in border states may accept Canadian bills, Misourri is too far south to be considered a border state, and you can't give someone two dollars or just barely have enough to buy a Gatorade in Canadian bills. The smallest bill is a five. So he was carrying a few dollars in US cash. Just enough to pay for a lift and a snack while waiting to be arrested. Or maybe he had a few bucks US in his wallet because he had a post box in Grand Marais, Michigan for ordering things on the internet. Like plutonium?
I also liked the informational paragraph one article had on the C172. It has a maximum cruise speed of 233 kilometres an hour and a range of 1,130 km. It's true, but it makes it sound so fast!