Misunderstanding Leads To F-15 Intercept

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Jean-Claude Courtois bought a plane in Florida but an allegedly iffy checkride and some miscommunications saw his maiden flight shortened by a pair of F-15s. The incident began at American Aviation on Hernando County Airport in Florida, where Courtois purchased a Cessna 425. While Courtois was getting checked out in the plane, his instructor developed concerns about the Frenchman's command of English and his piloting skills. Based on those concerns, the instructor recommended to American Aviation (the plane's seller) that Courtois fly with and be re-evaluated by another instructor. But before that could happen, the Frenchman hopped into the aircraft and departed Hernando "without (air traffic control) clearance," FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac told NaplesNews.com. Next, due to a miscommunication somewhere in the chain, a call from American Aviation to controllers along Courtois' presumed route of flight became a report of a foreigner who wasn't talking with controllers flying a stolen aircraft. Soon after, Courtois found himself putting down at Everglades Jetport at the urging of two NORAD-deployed F-15s.

Courtois' was reportedly heading from Hernando to Guadeloupe. Once on the ground, the misunderstanding started to become clear. Reached for comment by Tampa Bay Online, Hernando County Airport Director Don Silvernell lamented the misunderstanding. "It was his airplane and he left with it," Silvernell said, adding that security concerns were never an issue. Silvernell said the man was properly certificated and the whole incident was just "blown out of proportion."