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Authorities find missing Turlock plane in Gustine

POSTED February 18, 2011 8:18 p.m.

Merced County Sheriff’s Department investigators are trying to puzzle out the mystery of how an airplane believed to be stored at the Turlock Airport wound up chained to the ground at the Gustine Airport.

The plane, a 1955 Cessna 310, was reported stolen by the owner on Wednesday. The owner said he bought the plane in 2007 on the East Coast and flew it to the Turlock Airport and stored it in one of the hangars. It wasn’t until recently that he was made aware the plane was missing when he was contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, stating his plane was out of compliance and that it had been purchased and resold in 2009.

Sheriff spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie said it appeared that someone flew the plane out of the Turlock Airport and sold it by forging the victim’s and his wife’s name on the bill of sale, which was dated April 2009.

The plane was then later resold to the Westside Ariel Applicators. Deputy Dave Verdaber conducted an Internet research on the company and discovered that the missing plane was parked at the Gustine Airport, chained to the ground, MacKenzie said.

Detectives will be doing a follow up investigation with the company to try and determine who sold the plane to them and possibly identify the thief who stole the plane in the first place, MacKenzie said.

The twin engine plane is worth about $25,000, the victim said.

According to the FAA, thousands of planes like this are stolen every year and flown to South America for drug trafficking.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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