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Trooper: Flight student wanted to be shot down

F-16s trailed Canadian's trip

Adam Dylan Leon was reportedly suicidal. Adam Dylan Leon was reportedly suicidal.
By Cheryl Wittenauer
Associated Press / April 8, 2009
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ST. LOUIS - Federal prosecutors have charged a Canadian flight student with piloting a stolen plane into the United States in what they say was a suicide attempt.

Thirty-one-year-old Adam Dylan Leon was charged yesterday with transportation of stolen property and illegal entry.

According to the federal complaint, Leon said he flew the plane into the United States expecting to be shot down by military aircraft. The complaint says Leon told authorities he recently was being treated by a psychiatrist.

Authorities say Leon flew the plane for six hours Monday night before landing it on a rural Missouri road when it started to run out of fuel.

He was trailed along the way by military jets.

The plane was tracked as a "flight safety issue" and was not believed to be a terrorist threat, Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs, Colo. A background check of Leon showed no connection to terrorism, FBI agent John Gillies said.

The Missouri state trooper who arrested Leon said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the pilot told him he had hoped to be shot down.

"He made a statement that he was trying to commit suicide and he didn't have the courage to do it himself. And his idea was to fly the aircraft into the United States, where he would be shot down," Trooper Justin Watson said.

Leon was jailed in St. Louis, said Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said.

Rusnok said Leon was born in Turkey with the name Yavuz Berke, but moved to Canada and became a naturalized citizen.

The plane was reported stolen Monday afternoon from Confederation College Flight School at Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario. The college said in a statement that the flight was unauthorized but that Leon was enrolled in its program.

The plane was intercepted by F-16 fighters from the Wisconsin National Guard after crossing into the state near the Michigan state line.

The pilot flew erratically and didn't communicate with the fighter pilots, Kucharek said at the Aerospace Defense Command. The pilot acknowledged seeing the F-16s but didn't obey their nonverbal commands to follow them, Kucharek said.