Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer, with packed parks and crowded beaches not an uncommon sight. However, residents in northeast Mississippi had their last hurrah of the summer interrupted by the threat of a stolen, fully-fueled twin-turboprop plane plunging into the local Walmart.
Around 5 a.m. Saturday, Cory Wayne Patterson stole a Beechcraft King Air C90A and took off from Tupelo Regional Airport in Tupelo, Mississippi. WREG reported that the 29-year-old Patterson worked at the airport fueling planes for the last decade. He was able to depart without any issue since the airport’s control tower isn’t usually staffed until 6 a.m. Fifteen minutes into his flight, Patterson called 911 and threatened to crash the Beechcraft into the local Walmart. Police responded promptly, evacuating the Walmart and its immediate surroundings.
As locals filmed and photographed Patterson circling the skies above the Walmart, it became known to local authorities that he had posted a goodbye message on Facebook. Patterson posted, “Sorry everyone. Never wanted to actually hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye.” Police negotiators were able to get into contact with Patterson and convince him to land the plane safely after five hours in the sky, but there was one problem. He had no idea how. Patterson had some flight instruction but wasn’t a licensed pilot.
Authorities brought a pilot in to coach Patterson through the landing. He returned to Tupelo Regional Airport and nearly brought the plane down but aborted the landing. By the time they were able to recontact the aircraft, the Beechcraft had landed in a nearby field. The plane was damaged but intact, and Patterson was unharmed. He is now facing charges for grand larceny and making a terroristic threat. He may also face federal charges as the Federal Aviation Administration investigates the incident.