Mystery surrounds the theft of a plane stolen from a French airport at night in strong winds by an expert pilot who died when it crashed into a field four hours later after apparently running out of fuel.
The Piper PA-44 aircraft with registration F-GCJE was stolen from AeroPyrenees, an aviation training centre located near Perpignan airport in southern France at around 11pm on Tuesday evening.
Local media report the thief, who the authorities are working to identify, must have been an experienced pilot to take off in the middle of the night and fly for four hours in gusts of wind exceeding 100 kph (62 mph).
The plane took off at around 11 pm without having communicated a flight itinerary to air traffic control and crashed in a field in Corneilla-del-Vercol, a commune located 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Perpignan on Wednesday at around 3 am, as can be seen in the picture.
According to a source close to the investigation, “the wreckage of the stolen aircraft was found in a field, with its pilot dead.”
The plane had reportedly not caught fire, which has lead investigators to believe that it may have run out of fuel.
The authorities are working to identify the pilot and a DNA test is reportedly underway.
Perpignan deputy prosecutor Bruno Albouy said: “The key is the identification of the victim. We don’t know who was behind the theft or why the plane crashed.”
Three investigation services of the gendarmerie have been mobilised, as well as the Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA).
The Piper PA 44 is an American light aircraft with two engines. The model is popular with flight schools and charter companies, and is regularly found to be used by private individuals as well as companies. There are three different versions of the craft, which can typically reach a cruise speed of 301 kph (187 mph).
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Story By: Ernest Bio Bogore, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
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