LA National Guard Pursue Stolen Plane

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - 6:19pm

Missouri Police are still investigating the motives behind the Canadian pilot who flew a stolen plane into the US, tipping off a security scare. 31-year-old Yavuz Berke is behind bars tonight. Investigators say he took the plane from a flight school in Canada, and then flew across three states before landing in Missouri. Berke then ran and hid in a convenience store where he was later caught by police.

Louisiana Air National Guard soldiers were in pursuit of the stolen plane. They only had a few minutes to leave New Orleans and make the trip to Missouri. Other fighter jets were already in the air and the pilots from Louisiana took over to finish the mission.

It’s the second time in as many months that Louisiana Air National Guard pilots have had to intercept a flight. In the cockpits: Major Kristopher Murray and Lieutenant Colonel James Bong. Their mission: to get to Missouri and figure out what’s going on with this stolen airplane. “We basically monitored the stolen aircraft’s progress until we could confirm it was on the ground.”

FBI officials feared a terrorist was flying the plane, but later found out 31-year-old Yavuz Berke had stolen to plane from Canada. He was a student pilot. It caused terror in four states. In Wisconsin, the state capitol was evacuated. Here in Louisiana, a crisis action team set up shop at Louisiana State Police Headquarters while Murray and Bong took to the sky. “We made it in just a little under 50, that’s 5-0 minutes.” Murray says he wasn’t scared; he was focused on his mission. “Our airplanes are more maneuverable than really anything else you’re going to see out there, so.”

The Louisiana Air National Guard fighter pilots headed out to Missouri and in less than an hour they were in the air with Berke. Police now believe Berke was suicidal, hoping the fighter jets would shoot him down. As the investigation continues, the Louisiana pilots are home safe, waiting on their next mission.

The two fighter pilots are stationed about 8 miles from New Orleans and they’re always on alert. Governor Bobby Jindal says they did an excellent job.