Stolen Airplane Athens

Athens Police Detectives Chad Walker, center, and Adam Parkins, right, take 28-year-old Joshua Calhoun into custody Wednesday after the Brownsboro man allegedly flew away from Athens Municipal Airport in a stolen plane and crashed it in a wooded area near U.S. Highway 175 east.

A 28-year-old Brownsboro man was arraigned Thursday at the Henderson County Jail, one day after he was arrested for stealing an airplane at Athens Municipal Airport and crashing it into a wooded area near U.S. Highway 175 east.

Bond for Joshua David Calhoun of Brownsboro was set at $100,000 on a charge of theft of property in excess of $200,000.

On Thursday, the Athens Police Department was piecing together the bizarre string of events that ended with Calhoun’s arrest, Detective Sergeant Don Yarbrough said.

“Sometime from 7 to 7:30 a.m. Calhoun went out to the airport and got into a plane,” Yarbrough said. “He was having trouble starting it. He deceived an employee there by making him think it was all right to use the plane.”

Carroll Dyson of Dyson Aviation, who owns a fixed-based operations center at the airport, said at first glance Calhoun looked similar to the owner of the plane.

“I thought he was the owner, from where my building is to the ramp,” Dyson said. “He was not a very big fellow, with close cut hair and nice clean clothes. He tried to get the airplane and ran the battery down. Then he went and got some battery cables and was able to start it.”

Once the plane took off, Dyson became aware it was not the owner at the controls.

“The owner is a safe pilot,” Dyson said. “I saw this guy take off with the door open, so I got on the phone and asked the owner if he had loaned it to anybody. When he said no, I called the police.”

The plane’s owner, Todd Pearah, contacted authorities, who began to search for the craft. At the time, only Calhoun was aware that the plane had already crashed out.

“He flew it for a while, then he crashed it about one mile outside the city limits in a pasture. He was able to walk away from that,” Yarbrough said.

Some witnesses said Calhoun hitched a ride back to the airport. Yarbrough said he was not sure how Calhoun made it back.

Dyson said Calhoun returned to the scene of the crime at precisely the wrong time.

“While the police were out here getting my statement, I looked up and said, ‘Hey, someone is trying to drive off in that pickup,’” Dyson said. “That’s when they arrested him. Even if he’d left the pickup, it was registered to him and they would have found him that way.”

Officer Chad Walker arrested Calhoun at 9:34 a.m. and read him his rights.

“He had a couple of minor scrapes,” Yarbrough said. “We took him to East Texas Medical Center and when he was released he was booked into jail.”

Calhoun reportedly told officers he bought the plane off the Internet and wired the owner $52,000. That’s a different story than he had told at the airport, Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough said Thursday afternoon APD had not spoken to Calhoun since his booking, but the investigation in ongoing.

The 386 Bonanza Low Wing is valued at about $250,000, APD said.

The City of Athens had already been looking at ways of improving security at the airport. In December, the City Council voted to apply for a Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division for Routine Airport Maintenance Program Grant to help pay to install a security system and gate at the airport.

City Director of Planning and Development Gary Crecelius said the grant is still a possibility.

“It’s still in the works. Grants like that are slow to move. TxDOT only has so many dollars,” Crecelius said. “That’s still our plan, though, to try to get that done.”

Recommended for you