King Air Down, Pilot In Custody After Crash Threat (Updated)


A 29-year-old Tupelo, Mississippi man is facing a string of charges, including federal terrorism counts, after a five-hour flight in a stolen King Air C90. Authorities allege Cory Patterson, who has some flying experience, took the fully fueled King Air owned by Southeast Aviation LLC from the ramp of his employer Tupelo Aviation Services about 5 a.m. He reportedly called 911 on a cellphone and threatened to crash the twin into a Tupelo Walmart. After crisscrossing northern Mississippi for more than five hours, the plane ended up in a soybean field near Ripley, about 40 miles north of Tupelo.

Tupelo police said in a news conference the pilot was a ramp attendant at Tupelo Aviation. At one point, police negotiators and a local pilot talked the man into a landing at the airport, but he aborted the landing at the last minute and headed north and out of contact with the authorities.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I love how backwards things are in America these days. Another news outlet quoted an ex-NTSB who pointed out the threats to the US because of weak security measures at GA airports (see AP article today and the quote from Peter Goelz). He should know better and didn’t even qualify his statement with any data. Others also chimed in about the need to have federal government funding for GA security. Apparently folks taking off with stolen airplanes is such a widespread problem that we seem to need to act. And don’t forget the whack job who stole the turboprop from PDX, apparently that doesn’t count here, this is a GA issue. The fact is perhaps some airports are in need of more security but we don’t need to overreact. If a ten-year FBO employee loses it and decides to go on a joyride, there is not much we can do to prevent other than the obvious things like keeping keys and planes locked etc. This is just common sense and more government spending can’t fix that.

    • You need to remember the 4 digit entry gate code. Airport managers have to walk a thin line between reasonable access to their ramps and hangars, juxtaposed to Fort Knox security levels inhibiting their passengers and pilots from entering those facilities. Just figure that loose cannons–such as this pilot–will gain access to ramps and planes no matter how secure those facilities are. Good example: Watch episodes of any Aircraft Repossession series. Those folks don’t know entry codes, nor do they have keys to those aircraft.

      • It is a felony in every state to break-and-enter property of others. The Repo TV series somehow makes people think it is quite okay to break into a hangar and or sneak across an airport for the purpose of committing a felony. It is sad that this misleading Repo garbage was aired. Even sadder is that there are people that believe it is somehow true.

        God bless.

        • Yes, it’s true that what the Repo dudes do is totally illegal and misleading… IF you are a private citizen without a federal warrant. The Repo men are trained professionals with a warrant of seizure and banks backing them. No offense though. I do agree with you about the show misleading private citizens who do think it’s okay to sneak in and steal a jet, plus, the Repo guys show techniques for getting in and removing the jet, which is, as always, encouraging criminal activity.


  2. It’s illegal to use your cell phone in the air for non-emergencies. This guy might have to answer to Federal charges from the FCC if he’s unlucky.

    • That’s not actually true. This is the relevant law:

      § 91.21 Portable electronic devices.
      (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft:

      (1) Aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate; or

      (2) Any other aircraft while it is operated under IFR.

    • These days, you can “identify’ as a turtle, and expect your assertions to be tolerated – endorsed, actually.

      Truth is stranger than fiction, Master Jack…

    • U.S. “pilots” do not have a pilot “license”. They are issued a pilot Certificate.

      Licenses expire. Certificates do not. Most foreign pilots are “licensed” and must renew that license regularly, usually by retesting or retraining. U.S Pilots must comply with the provisions of the rules applicable to their certificates, usually involving medical and retraining and/or retesting requirements.

  3. I hate Walmart too, but I am not going to crash an aircraft into one. Or my car, or any other vehicle. I just won’t spend my money there. That’s the difference between rational and irrational thinking. That being said, I wonder if the offender thinks that jail or prison time is more preferable to the Walmart shopping experience?

    • If he doesn’t … he will realize the error of his choice … especially when ‘Brutus’ marries him in the crow bar hotel! 🙂 12′ TSA fences around airports here we come!

  4. Should we really be posting his picture? What better way to garner notoriety. The erratic flight aware track is a better picture.

    • I am in agreement with R.N. I like and trust AVweb but think it’s a mistake to post photos of these lawbreakers, except maybe booking photos from after they’re arrested.

        • Absolutely. These criminals do everything they can to get attention. Why do you think HE CALLED 911 to let them know he was going to do it. If he were a member of some sort of jihad terrorist group or something, the call is understandable to gain credit. Evidently this man has lost his mind, seeing as how people in their right mind don’t want to take credit for blowing up a Walmart and killing people. Also, minor fact, they generally don’t want to do it in the first place.

  5. I agree with Kent M. Although it is not a 1 to 1 issue, and not all behavior can directly be traced to early childhood learning, it does seem that people who are planning to be parents (aka “infant and child trainers”) would benefit from training before they begin. Training humans to function successfully in society seems to require skills which many parents simply do not know or know how to implement.

  6. IMO, this is another case of authorities mishandling an emergency. If a person is actually threatening to use an aircraft as a missile to kill people or destroy property, military aircraft should be scrambled immediately to either escort the aircraft to the ground under threat of being shot down. We already do this for TFRs. This was no joy ride. The nut job in the left seat stated his intensions clearly. If the “pilot” does not comply, the negotiation should end and the aircraft shot down. A decisive response to a threat would end this and set a precedent that would discourage future copy cats. But alas, we are now a country that wrings its hands and talks, rather than protect the public and enforce the laws.

    • The pilot has indeed communicated his intentions clearly: to commit suicide. So shooting him down just gives him what he wants: to go out in the most spectacular way. And to the contrary, it will encourage future copycats. Much better to talk him out of it, come down off the ledge peacefully, and maybe save the airplane and possible innocent lives on the ground.

      On the other hand, publishing his name and picture is out and out wrong. The publicity also encourages copycats.

  7. Maybe the ‘barefoot bandit’ should get more credit. All he wanted to do was go for a joy ride, not destroy airplanes or crash into big box stores. He got into locked hangars and figured out how to start aircraft based on his self-training with MS Flight simulator…

    BTW, Didn’t all those aircraft in locked hangars also require a key to get ’em started? I guess a lot of GA pilots must have left their keys in their planes. I dunno about King Air models like the one this article discussed. Does it require a key to start?

      • Think of all the single engine planes that are entirely unlocked (or don’t even have a door lock) in GA airports, sitting at the ramp, their owners miles away, the FBO unlocked, all around the country! And while most of these planes require a key, do you have any idea how easy it is to hotwire an ignition, whether it be plane or car? You can literally just look it up online and there’s a more than a thousand (legal or illegal) articles that tell you step by step how to hotwire a plane and steal it. Cirrus is the only piston single aircraft manufacturing company that I know of that hooks up to your phone as a key to get inside and start the plane; or a personal fob that you get upon receival of the aircraft.

    • The “barefoot bandit” scenario provoked FAA to warn all owners to “secure” their aircraft and increase vigilance against unauthorized use.
      In THIS case… the employee of owner of the aircraft had access to the aircraft by virtue of his employment. Aircraft (and vehicle and firearm) owners ALL have the obligation to restrict and guard access to dangerous or hazardous property. The owner of the King Air may face charges and civil suit over this.