Man accused of stealing plane pleads not guilty

A man accused of stealing a plane from Montgomery Field in San Diego, then flying the single-engine aircraft to Palm Springs and on to Los Angeles International Airport, pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony charges.

Deputy District Attorney David Uyar told Judge David Szumowski that 23-year-old Skye Turner - who has no pilot’s license but does have some training - stole the keys to the plane on Feb. 18 and flew to Palm Springs.

The defendant - who is charged with stealing an aircraft, grand theft and burglary - refueled in Palm Springs and then flew to Los Angeles, the prosecutor alleged.

Officials were concerned because Turner reportedly had been in a dispute with his girlfriend and had allegedly threatened to crash the single-engine, four-seat Cirrus SR22 into the ocean.

As Turner entered LAX airspace, he was flying so high - in the clouds above 11,500 feet - that he became disoriented, and air-traffic controllers helped talk him down, authorities said.

As he came in on final approach, he was going too fast and aborted at least one landing, but he eventually landed the plane successfully on the south airfield about 3 a.m. on Feb. 19, officials said.

Turner allegedly stole the plane just hours after a man flew a small aircraft into an office building where federal tax employees worked in Austin, Texas, killing himself and another person.

FAA records show Turner got a student pilot license in September 2004, but it expired two years later, the Daily Breeze reported.

Turner - who was ordered held on $75,000 bail - will be back in court March 8 for a readiness conference and March 10 for a preliminary hearing. He faces three years in prison if convicted.