- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

A Maryland private pilot who broke the no-fly ban was forced to land his prop-driven Cessna in a field in southern Illinois by F-16 fighter jets that were scrambled into action by a small-town police chief.
The Annapolis pilot, R. Wayne Beal, and his wife put down at the Festus Memorial Airport in Festus, Mo., for fuel and ended up stranded in the town of about 8,100 people about 30 miles from St. Louis — just as the skies were closed to aircraft after terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
Airport officials told the couple on Tuesday to park their Cessna 180 and wait at a nearby Holiday Inn until the nationwide ban on noncommercial flights was lifted.
Mr. Beal and his wife grew tired of waiting for permission to take off again and on Thursday argued with an airport worker before sneaking into their Cessna and taking off illegally, said Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis, who called the Federal Aviation Administration for air support.
The ban on flights by small planes was still in effect.
"I told him he couldn't fly out of here," said Sherry Meyers, spokeswoman for Multi-Aero, which refuels small planes at Festus. "I don't know what his problem was, he just started screaming and yelling."
Miss Meyers said when Mr. Beal, 58, announced nothing would stop him from flying into Washington, she turned around and called police. It was then that "he and his wife just ran out, jumped in their plane and took off without even warming it up," she said.
The little plane was speeding down the runway when Chief Lewis arrived.
"This is a small town. Apparently, he got tired of sitting here for two days and just wanted to get home," Chief Lewis said Friday. "[Mr. Beal] didn't believe that there were no flight routes open. It just didn't seem to faze him."
After the plane left the ground, the chief called the FAA. Officials told him an F-16 would be secured to track down Mr. Beal's plane.
FAA officials in St. Louis and New York said the incident and others like it across the country were being handled by the Department of Defense.
Defense officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide