On Saturday, authorities confirmed the safe landing of a jet that had been circling over northern Mississippi after the pilot reportedly threatened to crash into a Walmart.
As Governor Tate Reeves tweeted, “the incident has been addressed and no one was wounded.” After the plane was brought down, he congratulated the law enforcement authorities involved.
Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka announced during a press conference on Saturday that the pilot, identified as 29-year-old Cory Wayne Patterson, was in arrest and facing charges of grand larceny and making terroristic threats.
Tupelo airport worker Patterson allegedly stole a Beechcraft King Air C90A shortly after 5 a.m., while the airport’s air traffic control tower was unstaffed. Although he lacks a license and actual landing experience, Quaka claims he has had some flight training. At the airport where he works, he refills gasoline tanks on planes.
Quaka stated that at about 5:20 a.m., police were contacted after Patterson allegedly threatened to fly his jet into a local Walmart. Tupelo’s major thoroughfares were also closed.
After that, Quaka says, negotiators contacted Patterson and managed to dissuade him from crashing the plane into the supermarket.
For approximately five hours, the Beechcraft flew around Tupelo and another nearby city. A flight monitoring website revealed that the plane had been in the air for hours, following a random, erratic course.
Law authorities alerted the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal just after 8 a.m. that the plane had left the airspace above Tupelo and was flying toward a Toyota manufacturing plant in neighboring Blue Springs.
Patterson updated his Facebook status from 35,000 feet shortly after 9:30 a.m. local time. According to Quaka, the final word in the post was “goodbye.” It was getting dangerously close to landing because the plane was out of gas. About 30 minutes later, though, with the help of a private pilot, Patterson successfully landed the plane.
Quaka stated there was minimal damage to the plane from the landing. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the jet landed in a field located far to the northwest of Ripley Airport in Ripley, Mississippi.
Aside from some minor inconvenience, nobody was hurt.
Tupelo-based magazine editor Leslie Criss awoke early to follow the unfolding crisis on television and social media. A group of her pals had gathered outside to watch the plane go overhead.
“I’ve never seen something like this in our town,” Criss said to the Associated Press. It’s a terrifying way to begin a weekend.
Former state Rep. Steve Holland, who is a funeral director in Tupelo, said he had received calls from relatives anxious about the jet.
One asked, “Oh my God, do we need to cancel mother’s funeral?” It was Holland who made the remark. “I just reassured them, ‘No, life’s going to carry on.'”
Quaka predicted that federal charges will be filed against Patterson as well.
The probe included the participation of several government agencies, including DHS and the FAA. They haven’t determined a motive yet, but they’re working on it.
When the plane drama occurred, hundreds of college football fans were on their way to north Mississippi for Saturday football games at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and Mississippi State University in Starkville. Tupelo can be found midway between these two metropolises.