Las Vegas Airport Urges Caution After Aircraft Theft And Joy Ride

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North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT) management has advised pilots and tenants to take precautions after several aircraft on the field were burglarized and one was stolen on Dec. 30. Police said the suspect, Damian Zukaitis, 40, who apparently held a student pilot certificate dated June 29, 2018, allegedly stole a 2020 Kitfox from the airport and flew it 100 miles before landing in a field next to Barstow-Daggett Airport (KDAG) in California, according to a Fox News report.

The plane was reportedly found with beer bottles, cans and marijuana in the cockpit. Additionally, the owner of the Kitfox told a local news station a binder with instructions for landing at an airport in Corona, California, was also recovered. Following the incident, the airport management urged pilots and airport tenants to properly secure their aircraft and lock hangar doors.

“The safety and security of our tenants, pilots and passengers is always a top priority and we consistently review procedures and practices,” according to an airport statement to local news station, FOX5 Las Vegas. “We work closely with the North Las Vegas Police Department who provide law enforcement at the airport. Additionally, we have a contracted private security company that patrols after hours.”

According to FOX5, law enforcement is still investigating a motive. Police say Zukaitis faces charges related to both the possession of a stolen aircraft and transporting stolen property across state lines.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

26 COMMENTS

  1. It’d be mighty easy to modify the wiring with a hidden switch to disable the start function of an airplane. It’s more likely that high value avionics would be the target, though. If I had an airplane that had to sit on the ramp, I’d consider some sort of burglar alarm using a light weight electronic siren. SAD that it’s come to this. At KGIF, there was a recent incident where a number of airplanes were purposefully damaged.

    • Since 1990, 2 150’s /152’s tied down in a grass tiedown spots, were broken into and stolen by intoxicated / high student pilots with long since expired certificates, both taken at midnight, and then flown back to the same field, and damaged upon landing.
      Both individuals were arrested and charged.

      • And that was at my then home field, where I was based for 40 years, grass and paved field, 2300 ft., 43 aircraft based on the field And those incidents I described above occurred 1990 to about 2005.

    • Many years ago I flew for the Civil Air Patrol, and their 172s had metal plates that covered the radio panels and locked in place securing the radios. I’m sure Sporty’s sells something similar now.

  2. Secure their aircraft and lock the hangar doors. The other side of the coin would be what about in case of a fire? Where one would need to get in, possibly move things out, to extinguished said fire?

    Little hard to do that with locked doors and inaccessible items.

    • At my field, all hangar doors are locked by their individial renters If there ever was a fire in a T- Hangar and yes, that has occurred, Fire Dept personnel popped open by force any roll up or sliding hangar doors.
      Chances of a burglary, theft,vandalism are higher than the chances for fire.
      Either way, First Responders can make easy tasking of taking out a T- Hangar door lock mechanism on a slider, roll up, etc.

      • And THAT’S the hell of it. No different than infringements on our 2nd Amendment, where law-abiding citizens are the only ones affected.

    • At our airport we’re required to give a spare key marked with our hangar number to the local fire department. The city’s public works department also tracks keys and hangars. And yes, the fire department brings a lock box with them with all the keys in it when they do fire inspections at the airport. And yes, they will open your hangar and make sure you don’t have combustibles stored there. And this is a rural town.

  3. Back in the 1980’s, at my then based field, there were several aircraft breaking that were tied down on grass or concrete tie down spots. Including a 182 with its windshield smashed out parked next to my aircraft. All had some or all of their better avionics stolen. Given the type of break in damage and the fashion in which the avionics were crudely hacked out of the burglarized aircraft, Police and Airport management suspected ” amateurs ” not routinely engaged in the aircraft business.
    Investigation revealed the thief to be an alcoholic A&P mechanic that had been fired within the past 6 months from an infield FBO.

  4. When people posting have to go back 40 or more years for comparable stories, theft is not a big issue.

    • I was going to say the same thing. In the case where Frank T mentioned two 150/152 from 1990, thirty three years with two instances is really nothing. In the world we live in today…. So far, airports and marinas, are still pretty theft / vandalism free so far.

      • Well, NO. At my marina, located about 21 miles from my base airport; vandalism has been rampant along with drunken/high juveniles using one’s boat as a lounge and club house for drunken parties. I have incurred 2 recent incidents of that happening to my boat.

    • To: Neil Lynch :
      Exactly- my citing the only 2 cases of actual aircraft theft and one case of actual avionics stolen from 6 different aircraft in one overnight period which took place in the 1990 era, proves that people are mainly vigilant at small GA airports. Of course, it helps, that the local PD has a live streaming feed from numerous CCTV cameras mounted around the airport and they will respond immediately when anything appears to bear further investigation. Juvenile substance abuse has been the main instigator of recent events.

  5. In today’s climate………nothing will happen to them, just watch, when a guy can purposely, with intent disable an aircraft, crash it, recover it, cut it up and dispose of the evidence, post it all on you tube of the entire crime, interfear in an ongoing federal investigation………and gets 6 months? NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

    • Yep. But when a good pilot merely flies under a bridge, she loses everything. Gonna say the fake crash was far more egregious.

  6. It is sad when theft is a way of life. From less cereal in a box to tax fraud to stealing cargo ships, nothing is out of bounds! You work hard for possessions and then work hard to keep them. Even governmental protections have wained because they too have relied on your insurance to care for you. Welcome to the real world!

    • Sadly, theft has ALWAYS been a way of life—just like complaining about how good it used to be before [insert your favorite bugbear here]. All we can do is take reasonable and prudent measures to, hopefully, mitigate/reduce the risk.

      BTW, it’s “wane”—“wain” would be Elmer Fudd’s version of precipitation.

  7. That’s funny. I rented one time out of VGT, about 2005 and it was the most locked-down post 9/11 GA airport I ever experienced. I was told ramp checks were an almost daily occurrence. Guess things have slipped.

  8. Back in the day, I was 1st of the day to a C150 for my lesson. I found it locked as I started the pre flight and noting the slop in the door latch/handle, I tried my technician’s pocket screwdriver. Sadly it worked as well as the door key! I reported it but never did follow up or check any of the other trainers.

  9. “Locking up” a Kitfox will keep the honest people out, but I could break into one in 30 seconds or less, same with my RANS -S-7S, I mean, come one! We built them light, not burgle proof!

    • Same with my Rans S6ES. I didn’t even have a lock on the door. My main anti-theft device was to not have anything expensive in the panel. Expensive stuff was all portable and came with me. But yeah, they could hotwire it and fly it away I guess.

      On my RV-4 there was no ignition key or anything marked start. To start it you had to flip the mag toggle switches on, then press the left mag switch forward momentarily to engage the starter. Hard for a thief to figure that out in the middle of the night.

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