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Disappearance of Grounded Plane Has Investigators Baffled : Crime: Detectives, owner seek clues in the apparent ‘broad-daylight’ theft of a Cessna 210 that was undergoing repairs at a tiny air park.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This is the kind of caper the Hardy Boys would have loved--the case of the missing airplane.

On Dec. 17, workers at the Quail Lake Sky Park here brought Seth Broche’s single-engine plane out of its hangar for a routine examination by his mechanic. The Cessna 210 was inspected, but the aircraft was not immediately returned to its berth.

The next day, it was gone.

The disappearance has baffled Broche, who has been refurbishing the Cessna since he bought it in October. A resident of Sebastopol, north of San Francisco, he has been delving into the mystery by telephone.

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Ongoing repair work, along with an outstanding storage bill levied against the aircraft because of a previous owner, had prevented Broche from moving the aircraft closer to home.

But no one seems to know how a 21-year-old plane, with paint stripped off in places and a piece of its tail section removed, wandered away from a tiny air park where strangers are easy to notice.

“It’s real bizarre,” said Broche, 46, who had planned to use the plane for recreation.

Law enforcement investigators are similarly perplexed by the apparent plane theft.

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“This is the very first I’ve ever had, and I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Detective Ken Kyle of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Santa Clarita Valley Station.

Kyle visited the rural air park Thursday in search of clues. Did someone successfully hot-wire a plane with pieces missing or remove it by truck under the air park officials’ collective nose?

“It’s unlikely the plane was flyable,” Kyle said. “It looks like someone took the wings off and carted it away.

“It was probably a broad-daylight type of deal,” said Kyle. “It’s near a pair of residences, so it’s unlikely they would have been able to take it at night. There are people who would have heard, and lots of dogs there.”

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Investigators are unsure why anyone would swipe an aircraft still undergoing repairs.

“That’s what’s so suspicious about it,” Broche said. “It seems to me, if someone was going to put their butt on the line, they would try to get something that’s super-spiffed.

“You don’t go to jail any less if you steal a crummy plane rather than a real nice one.”

Not that whoever took the Cessna got a piece of junk, mind you. Worth an estimated $60,000 when in flying condition, it features a new motor and propeller and recently underwent a $10,000 modification to fix a landing-gear problem common to Cessna 210 aircraft, Broche said.

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For the moment, investigators say Broche’s plane was probably taken because it was easier to steal than those still in their hangars.

“There weren’t any other planes on the runway,” Kyle said.

Whoever took the aircraft will likely fly it before Broche will. The refurbishment effort, as well as the storage bill, has kept it grounded as long as Broche has owned it.


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