A 46-year-old licensed pilot had his wings clipped earlier this week, after Chowchilla police say he landed at the city's airport in a stolen plane.
Lonnie Blackburn was arrested at the airport Wednesday, not long after Chief Jay Varney said he and public works employee Steve Cook spotted the Cessna 172 flying erratically on its final approach.
After Blackburn landed, Varney said he saw the suspect outside of the plane, trying to cover the plane’s identification numbers with white spray paint. Blackburn was detained and questioned by police.
Officers also found a cash register with change inside the plane. Police believe Blackburn flew the plane from Paradise to Hollister, stopping off at another location before arriving in Chowchilla.
Varney believes the suspect took the cash register from the airport in Hollister. The suspect was evasive with police during questioning. "For whatever reason, he was intent on coming back to this area because he formerly lived in the Madera area," Varney said.
The suspect didn't appear to be under the influence, Varney said, although traces of marijuana were found inside the plane. Varney said the Cessna's owner will probably pick up the aircraft Friday.
Blackburn was booked into the Madera County Jail on suspicion of grand theft and taking a vehicle without permission. He’s being held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
-- Sun-Star staff