Friday, February 12, 2010


Some info on the latest act of airplane piracy to hit Western Washington. There have now been four small aircraft stolen and believed connected to Colton Harris-Moore. To put that number into perspective, in an average year, there are a total of six general aviation planes stolen in North America -- and most of those are near the southern border, taken and used by drug dealers.  

This plane was a Cirrus SR22, the same popular model as one stolen last summer from San Juan Island. That plane was also hard-landed on Orcas Island.  

Both times, the planes were taken at night and landed in the dark (Orcas does have runway lights that stay on all night). Both planes hit the runway, but then quickly ran off onto the grass.

This most recent plane was heisted from a locked hangar, as were the first and third planes (those were both Cessna 182s). Hangared planes give the thief time to check out the aircraft, see if it has enough fuel, check for the keys, etc.

The Cirrus is faster than the 182 and reportedly somewhat trickier to fly. That initially led some experts to doubt that someone like Colt, who had no formal training, could have flown one. Now, with a second Cirrus taken, and hints (in the form of tauntingly drawn "barefoots") that Colt has suddenly landed back on Orcas, those experts are having to admit that the connection looks stronger. Officially, though, Colt hasn't been tied to that first Cirrus theft. He is officially a suspect in this latest one.

The Cirrus is known for its airframe parachute, which in case of engine failure, deploys and slows the plane's fall to a survivable speed. It's not a magic carpet, though. This plane was stolen from Anacortes then flown across the cold waters of Puget Sound to Orcas. If a plane went into the drink out here and the pilot survived the hit, he'd only last about a half hour in the 46-degree water before losing conciousness.


  1. FYI The parachute, or Ballistic Recovery System, does not deploy automatically. The pilot must pull the red handle to fire the rocket propelled parachute. It is also least likely to be used in the case of an engine failure as the airplane still glides just fine without the engine. The parachute is intended for more dire emergencies, where basic piloting skills, such as landing a plane with an engine out, will not result in a favorable outcome. I am sure he steals the Cirrus, because they are super fast and easy to fly. Any plane with comparable speed to a Cirrus is at least twice as complex with retractable landing gear, cowl flaps, a manually controlled propeller, or all of the above. Whatever this guys motive, he has good taste in airplanes.

  2. He needs to figure out the proper landing speed and read as much as he can on landing procedures. Flaps, reducing the power, the flare. I'm sure he has but with all the practice he's been getting, he clearly needs to read up on the strategy of it. Colt needs to get his hands on a Jeppesen private pilot book. He's walking away, so it's a "good" landing as they say, but the disposable airplane method is a bit dangerous for his health.

    Fascinating story tho.

  3. This guy has piloted 4 airplanes. 2 Cessna 182's and 2 Cirrus SR22's.

    Despite the controls of the cirrus, and how difficult they would be use, the Cirrus aircraft have bee the only ones able to be flown home. Kind of ironic huh?