April 6, 2009 (by Asif Shamim) - F-16s from 176 FS scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) intercepted and chased a stolen Cessna 172 over three US states before the pilot landed on a highway in Missouri and ran away.
A two ship formation of F-16C block 30s #87-0258 & #87-0260 from the 176th FS on a routine training mission in the skies over Wisconsin on October 21st, 2008. [USAF photo by MSgt. Paul Gorman]
The pilot, Adam Leon, 31, stole a Cessna from a Canadian flight school in Thunder Bay, Ontario around 1430h local time before crossing into American airspace, prompting a response from NORAD
F-16s from the Madison based 176th Fighter Squadron scrambled to intercept Leon at the Michigan-Wisconsin border but he refused to respond to their commands to land, and then the chase continued over Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois before the Cessna finally touched down at Ellismore, Missouri.
As the plane neared Dane County, the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison was evacuated.
Mr Leon's plane had enough fuel for an eight hour flight, according to Mike Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.
He was flying erratically, and although he acknowledged seeing the F-16s he refused to obey their non-verbal commands to follow them, said Mr Kucharek.
After crossing into Missouri, the Cessna landed on a stretch of US Highway 60 near Ellsinore in Clark County around 2200h local time. Leon fled on foot, according to the Clark County Sheriff's Department, but was apprehended after about thirty minutes at a local grocery store.
"We tailed it all the way," Maj. Brian Markin said. "Once it landed our aircraft returned to base."