On Saturday, September 3, around 5:30 am, a pilot circling Tupelo, Mississippi contacted police and threatened to crash his plane into a Walmart. The Tupelo Police Department evacuated the Walmart and surrounding buildings. Initially, police thought an employee of the Tupelo Regional Airport may have stolen a plane, but then suspected the pilot to be an employee of a fixed-base operator at the airport instead.
At 11 am CT the pilot landed the plane in an open field and was taken into police custody. 29-year-old Cory Wayne Patterson stole a Beechcraft King Air C90A, a twin-prop utility plane first flown in the early 1960s, from Tupelo Regional Airport. He then began circling Tupelo, contacting police and threatening to crash the plane.
One Twitter user posted the flight path early on Saturday, which showed Patterson’s agitated, hectic flying. Patterson posted what was essentially a goodbye note around 9:30 am on his Facebook page. It read, “Sorry everyone. Never wanted to actually hurt anyone. I love my parents and sister this isn’t your fault. Goodbye.”
Todd Jordan, Tupelo Mayor, expressed that he hopes Patterson “will get the help he needs.” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves posted a tweet after Patterson was apprehended, thanking law enforcement and everyone involved. “Thank you most of all to local, state, and federal law enforcement who managed this situation with extreme professionalism,” he wrote.
Inexperienced Pilot Circles Tupelo, Threatens to Crash, Then Safely Lands in Field
While Patterson was in the air, negotiators with the police department spoke with him, trying to convince him to land the plane safely. According to WKRN, Patterson did not have the skills to land the plane on his own. Another pilot had to talk him through it. He eventually landed in an open field where he was arrested and taken into custody.
As of now, Patterson faces charges of grand larceny and making a terroristic threat, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. He did not possess a pilot’s license, but he worked for Tupelo Aviation. Because of his job, he had basic flight training. His main job was fueling aircraft.
Initially, the plan was for Patterson to land at Tupelo Regional Airport, but at the last minute, he changed his flight path. Negotiators lost radio contact around 10:08 am, but reestablished contact at 10:12 am when Patterson then informed them that he had landed in a field. The soybean field he landed in was 40 miles north of Tupelo. Currently, police are investigating a motive.
Mayor Todd Jordan said in a statement that he had spoken with Patterson’s family. “I believe that after the initial threat, he did not want to hurt himself, or anyone else, and I believe that we had what you would think would be the best-case scenario,” he said.