"Dude, Where's My Bizjet?"
It's not the same as the strange case of the missing 727 from a couple of years ago, but it's not the same as stealing a Cessna for a joy ride, either. "It" is last weekend's apparent theft of a Cessna Citation VII, which went missing from the St. Augustine (Fla.) Airport (SGJ) sometime Saturday and mysteriously materialized a few hundred miles away at the Gwinnett County Airport/Briscoe Field (LZU) in Lawrenceville, Ga., Sunday morning, according to The Associated Press. Published reports say the jet -- which is operated by Pinnacle Air Jet Charter -- landed at SGJ at about 10:40 a.m. local time Saturday. According to the AP, the jet's crew parked the Citation on the ramp, turned loose their passengers and waited for an outbound flight assignment. It was a lengthy wait -- the crew first realized their jet was missing on Monday morning. By Monday, the Citation had already been parked at LZU for at least a day -- since the tower at LZU is closed overnight, local authorities believe the Citation landed before 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The pool of likely suspects can't be that large, of course -- how many Citation VII-qualified pilots were there in the St. Augustine area last Saturday?
To its credit, The Associated Press downplayed the terror threat the theft posed. The news service noted that, "One national security expert said the theft of an airplane does not rank as high of a terrorism threat as a stolen truck or bus.'A tanker truck full of explosive fuel is a much bigger concern than a private aircraft being stolen,' said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management, a consulting firm." Those same local authorities have searched the apparently undamaged Citation but have not found evidence of drugs, weapons or anything else. Not even lousy catering. "It's a very rare occurrence," LZU airport manager Matt Smith said of the plane's discovery, according to the AP, in our candidate for understatement of the week. "We've ruled out anything diabolical or sinister," he added. Unsurprisingly, the FBI and, presumably, the TSA are investigating. So far, it appears the Citation was merely used for a bit of joy riding, though by whom, why and how they got home remains unknown. Other questions we'd like to ask: Did they file IFR and get into the flight levels, or just go with flight following at 17,500? How will they log the flight? Why the Atlanta area -- didn't the pilot(s) check to discover that the Braves/Astros playoff game was in Houston that night? What did the Pinnacle crew tell the company when they phoned in this one? (AVweb attempted to reach Pinnacle for its side of this story, but we were met with a quick, terse and unsurprising "no comment.")