Florida man steals a plane in California, crash lands it on a nearby beach and walks off, sheriff says

A small plane on a beach
A photo from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office shows the fixed-wing, single-engine plane that was allegedly stolen from Palo Alto Airport on Thursday evening and flown to Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay.
(San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office)

A Florida man purloined a plane in Palo Alto on Thursday and put it down on a beach in Half Moon Bay, according to flummoxed San Mateo County authorities.

The 50-year-old Miami native and suspect, Luiz Gustavo Aires, is accused of committing the grand theft aero around 5 p.m., taking to the skies briefly before touching down just 25 miles away, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, this is for sure a first,” said Javier Acosta, a spokesman for the office.


Deputies got a call about a beached plane, kicking off the hunt for the lost aircraft. Witnesses told the deputies that someone landed the plane, got out and walked away.

Two of Garvey’s children say he has declined to meet with them, while his eldest daughter says he cut her and her children off without explanation.

Feb. 1, 2024

After a “thorough search,” the deputies located the small red-and-white fixed-wing single-engine aircraft on Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay. The Federal Aviation Administration lists the plane as owned by a San Mateo-based limited liability company.

Acosta said that deputies learned the plane was stolen from Palo Alto Airport and later located a man who matched the description of the person who abandoned the aircraft.

Aires was booked on suspicion of theft of an airplane and misappropriation of lost property, Acosta said.