He stole a Cessna 172 touring plane from the Novi Ligure “Mossi” airport and took off towards Provenza. The protagonist of the theft that took place yesterday morning, according to preliminary information, is a 33-year-old Slovak citizen, who flew low over the military base in Toulouse with the stolen aircraft triggering the immediate reaction of the Armée de l’Air, the French air force, which raised a Mirage 2000 to fly understand who was invading a prohibited airspace. The pilot was then escorted by a helicopter and forced to land, at the second attempt, at the Aix-Les-Milles aerodrome, near Aix-en-Provence.
The theft took place yesterday morning from one of the hangars of the Novi Ligure airport where the Bepilot flight school is based, directed by Paolo Visentini. “That man was alone, he arrived around 6.30 am. The plane took off at 6.55 am – he says – I don’t know if he is really a pilot, the stolen Cessna is one of the planes we use for school, it’s not difficult to drive but you certainly need some expertise “.
The plane, which has the Slovenian name S5DSE, flew three hours before landing in Provence where the French arrested the pilot, who did not say a word from the moment he left the cabin. He had no documents with him, just a letter written in English which was seized by the French authorities. During the time in which it crossed the Italian airspace was not reported by any radar or control tower. “His flight, however, has been traced, because on our plane the transponder turns on automatically as soon as the plane lifts the trolley off the ground” explains Visentini.
As soon as the Cessna crossed the border, however, it triggered the French radar alert who have it reported as an international flight. When he passed through the military space of Toulouse, he even alarmed the air force and found himself being chased from fighters and helicopters, with the military who escorted him to landing: currently the French air base of Toulouse-Francazal is in fact since 2017, after having been partially “demilitarized”, the main national center from which operations depart rapids of army paratroopers and the flights of the new four-engine Airbus A300M military transport.
“We noticed the theft around 10 when they called us from the French Armée de l’Air who warned us that one of our planes had violated military airspace – says the president – I didn’t believe it, I thought of a joke , because yesterday morning we weren’t flying because of the bad weather. Then I sent someone to check and I realized that the hangar was empty. At that point we went to file a complaint “. The Novi Ligure carabinieri investigate the incident in collaboration with the French authorities who now have the aircraft thief in custody.