U.S. News

Utah teens steal propeller plane and fly it low over highway

A small fixed-wing, single engine light sport Cessna aircraft stolen by two teens is pictured at the Vernal Regional Airport in Jensen, Uintah County, Utah, U.S. in this undated photo obtained by Reuters November 23, 2018. Uintah County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Two teenagers stole a small plane in a rural area of eastern Utah on Thursday, flying it at low altitude over a highway and landing at a regional airport before being arrested, officials said.

The teens, ages 14 and 15, took the single-engine, propeller aircraft from a private airstrip in the small town of Jensen in the northeastern corner of Utah, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The theft of the plane follows an incident in August when an airline worker stole an empty Bombardier Q400 commercial turboprop from a Seattle airport and crashed the empty plane after flying for around an hour, raising concerns about the security of parked aircraft. [nL1N1V300W]

In the latest incident, which involved a far smaller plane, the teens flew at low altitude over Highway 40 and were seen in the air above the area of Gusher, which is about 30 miles (50 km) west of where they took off, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The teens thought about continuing to fly west to a more populated area of Utah, but they decided to turn around and land the plane at the Vernal Regional Airport, about 15 miles (25 km) from where they took off, the sheriff’s office said. The office described the plane as a “light sport aircraft.”

The teens were arrested near the airport and placed in a youth detention center in the area.

The sheriff’s office statement did not list charges against the teenagers and a representative for the office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The teenagers, whose names were not released, are from the Wasatch Front, an area of Utah that includes the state capital Salt Lake City and other large cities, and they lived in a group home there. It was not immediately clear if they had any previous experience flying a plane.

The teenagers had been staying with friends in Jensen before stealing the plane, the sheriff’s office said.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Phil Berlowitz