Homeless Md. man charged with stealing and crashing private plane at small airport

Monday, December 28, 2009

Homeless man charged with stealing, crashing plane

FREDERICK, Md. — A homeless man trying to leave town in a stolen plane crashed the single-engine aircraft on a municipal airport runway without ever leaving the ground, police said.

Calvin C. Cox, 51, wanted to fly away from Frederick early Monday but ended up in jail instead, unable to make bail, authorities said. He remained in custody after bail was set at $10,000 on felony charges including theft, burglary and trespassing. No attorney was immediately appointed.

Cox wasn’t hurt when the Piper Super Cub ran off a runway at Frederick Municipal Airport and upended in the grass at about 2:15 a.m. Monday, police said. A canine team tracked him into nearby woods, Frederick Police Lt. Clark A. Pennington said.

Pennington said Cox had lived in a tent in the nearby woods and somehow become familiar enough with the airport and airplanes that he was able to get inside a hangar and start the aircraft.

He said Cox drove the plane part way up a 3,600-foot runway, then turned the aircraft around and drove it back down the runway and off the pavement.

The two-seat Piper, owned by the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association, sustained damage to its engine and propeller, club President Michael H. Higgins said.

Higgins said club members don’t know Cox.

Member Lance Nuckolls said the hangar had been locked and that starting the Piper would have required activating several switches and a starter button in the correct sequence.

“You don’t just stumble on it and figure it out,” he said. “You have to be trained to do that.”

Cox is not listed in FAA airmen certification records as a licensed pilot or mechanic. He could have learned about airplanes, though, by working for a certified mechanic, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters.

FBI spokesman Richard J. Wolf said his agency was advised of the incident but wasn’t actively involved in the investigation.

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