Pilot explains how plane may have been stolen before beach landing in Half Moon Bay

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Saturday, February 10, 2024
Pilot explains how landed plane in Half Moon Bay may have been stolen
Aviation Expert Max Trescott explains how the plane that landed at Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay may have been stolen.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Mateo Sheriff's Office and Palo Alto police continue their investigation into a stolen plane that landed at a Half Moon Bay beach.

It happened around 5 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses watched as the small plane came flying through at Poplar Beach.

New video sent to ABC7 News shows the dramatic moments when a small aircraft came in for a beach landing.

Authorities say 50-year-old Miami man Luiz Gustavo Aires stole the plane from Palo Alto Airport and brought it down 27 miles away in Half Moon Bay.

Aviation Expert Max Trescott says flying this type of plane is no easy feat.

RELATED: Man arrested after stolen plane makes emergency landing on San Mateo Co. beach: sheriff

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office says a man stole a single-engine plane from Palo Alto Airport and made a crash landing near Poplar Beach.

"This person obviously had some flying ability," Trescott said. "Taking the Citabria off is probably easier than landing a Citabria. In fact, the take-off of the Citabria is considerably more difficult than most small airplanes. So, yes, I think we can safely assume this person had some pilot training of some kind."

The plane is registered to Advantage Aviation Flight Instructor Rachael Webster.

We reached out to Webster about her stolen plane, but we did not hear back.

One of her past students, Boris Teksler, hasn't heard from her either.

"Have not heard from her in the past couple days since this happened," Teksler said. "But she's a wonderful instructor and a great CFI. I think she is a professor at Berkeley as well. So, she teaches, and I took flight school from her and she's fabulous."

MORE: 3rd body found near Half Moon Bay plane crash site that killed 4, officials say

When we got to the airport where Webster's plane was kept, we found a hole in the fence.

Police on scene told us the hole was not here yesterday, but we don't know for sure if this was how the plane was stolen.

"It's pretty shocking to think that a plane would get stolen out of Palo Alto Airport here," Teksler said.

A shock, but Trescott says this kind of plane does not require a key to start them.

MORE: Couple killed in plane crash near Half Moon Bay was 2 weeks away from wedding day, obituary says

He thinks stealing the plane may not have been hard to do.

"The owner flew the aircraft earlier in the day, and when the owner arrived, the airplane was untied and the cover had been removed, which was quite a surprise," Trescott said. "So the owner then flew the aircraft and then later in the day the aircraft was stolen."

Authorities tell us the investigation is ongoing and there's no update at this time.

Aires remains booked at the San Mateo County Jail, arrested for theft of an airplane.

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