A flight school student has been arrested after damaging 10 aircraft at the Treasure Coast Flight School, situated at Whitham Field in Martin County, Florida, United States (US).
The 23-year-old international student from India was reportedly expecting to undertake his first solo flight. When school instructors refused to let him fly, he became frustrated and “vandalized a number of airplanes,” the Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) stated in a Facebook post on October 24, 2023.
The incident came to light when school officials reviewed security footage and contacted the MCSO.
“Some of the damage they think he may have done and would maybe not have been detected until they were airborne, would’ve impacted their ability to land,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told CBS 12 News.
Among the items vandalized was a plane’s throttle, a crucial control mechanism that regulates the power or thrust produced by the engines of an aircraft.
In February 2021, Indonesian investigators said the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plane crash which killed 56 passengers and six crew members in January 2021 could have been caused by a faulty throttle system.
The flight school has grounded all affected aircraft. The planes will remain non-operational until mechanics can thoroughly assess and determine the extent of the damage to each aircraft.
The 23-year-old student was promptly arrested at Witham Field Airport and has been charged with felony criminal mischief. Additional charges are also possible.