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Shoeless pilot in stolen plane intercepted by French army jet

A fighter jet and army helicopter intervened over Toulon after the pilot, who was flying in socks, failed to respond to radio calls and flew through several no-fly zones

The French air force intervened in the incident in a Mirage 2000 fighter jet after the pilot in the stolen plane did not reply to radio contact Pic: VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock

A French army jet has intercepted a shoeless pilot at the controls of a stolen civilian aircraft flying over Toulon, after he was reported to have disrupted air traffic over Nice.

The plane, which was found to be “contravening the rules of aircraft circulation” was escorted to land at the Aix-Les-Milles aerodrome at 09:05 on March 30, and the pilot was arrested by national police.

The pilot is suspected of having stolen the aircraft in Italy before eventually coming to circulate above the air defence base in Toulon (Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). 

He had flown in several no-fly zones, including over the naval base in Toulon, and had neither established radio contact nor shared a flight plan.

The pilot was in his 30s, spoke in English, did not have any legal documentation on him, and said he was originally from Slovakia. He was also flying without shoes.

He was intercepted after failing to respond to radio calls. He is now in police custody.

The army jet that intercepted him was a French Mirage 2000 fighter jet, which took off from the airbase in Orange, Vaucluse. A Fennec helicopter was also mobilised in the incident. 

The Orange-Caritat air base is one of the sites in permanent operation tasked with monitoring and protecting French airspace.

Air force l’Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace confirmed the incident in a tweet, and added that “in 2021, 170 abnormal situations required airspace intervention by fighter jets or helicopters”.

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