Investigations

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Florida Pilot Pleads Guilty to Willful Destruction of an Aircraft and Sending Out a False Distress Call

On June 5, Marcus Schrenker plead guilty in US District Court, Pensacola, FL, to willfully wrecking an aircraft, and causing the United States Coast Guard to attempt to save his life and property when no help was needed. Mr. Schrenker had been indicted in Pensacola, Florida on January 20, 2009. On January 11, 2009, Mr. Schrenker, while en–route to Destin, Florida, made several false distress calls to the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (AARTCC) stating his windshield was cracking and he was injured. In response to the call, the United States Coast Guard launched a search and rescue effort in anticipation of a potential crash. Subsequent search and rescue efforts discovered no body at the scene of the crash and no damaged to the aircraft’s windscreen. It was later determined that Mr. Schrenker set the plane on autopilot and parachuted out of the aircraft. Mr. Schrenker subsequently admitted to making the false distress calls and that it was his intention to crash the aircraft in the Gulf of Mexico. Sentencing is currently set for August 19, 2009.

This investigation was conducted jointly with the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, with outstanding assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Marshal’s Service, the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Department, The Gadsden County Office, the United States Air Force, the United States Air Force 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron – McChord Air Force Base, the Louisiana Air National Guard, the Tallahassee Police Department, the Harpersville Police Department, the Talladega Police Department, the Childersburg Police Department, the Vincent Police Department, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.