GA Pilot Thwarts Burglar From Air (Yes, Again)
Pilot David Zehntner and his wife ended a Sunday flight in their Cessna 182 with a low pass of their home, which is located below the approach path to his local airport in LaBelle, Fla., but this time the view included a burglar. At about 800 feet inbound for landing, the couple spotted what appeared to be a man testing the windows and doors at their house. Zehntner told local news agencies that he circled, descending to about 300 feet. They watched as the man attached to his own truck the Zehntners' red tow trailer, looked up at the plane, and drove off. The event is similar to one that AVweb reported in August of 2011, which ended in an arrest. And the Zehntners took action to help ensure that their episode ended the same way.
In the 2011 event, a man flying as a passenger in a friend's Cessna 172 requested a flyby of his home and when the pair arrived overhead they spotted men taking items from the house. In that case, the two successfully contacted authorities on the ground and directed them from the air until the suspects were apprehended by police on the ground. In the Zehntners' case, the couple was unable to contact anyone by radio at their local airport and attempts made by cellphone were thwarted by noise. The couple elected to stop trying and instead followed their stolen trailer as the thief towed it for several miles. "At one point, he was stopped at a red light right in front of the Henry County police station," Zehntner told ABC news. When they saw the thief turn onto local Highway 80, Zehntner elected to land back at his airport. Once on the ground, he informed authorities. Forty minutes later, police successfully found, stopped and arrested the driver who was towing the Zehntners' trailer. Gary Robert Haines, 59, of Virginia, was arrested and charged with grand theft. Speaking about the event, Zehntner said, "Not sure it's something I'd want to do every day, but the outcome is pleasing. It was worth it."