Unauthorized plane that caused evacuations lands safely in Virginia

UPDATED 8/18/08 4:27 p.m.: ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- A plane that made an unauthorized takeoff and circled for several hours has landed without incident at Roanoke Regional Airport in Virginia.

Roanoke police say the pilot is with federal authorities, who were handling the investigation.

Authorities asked business owners to evacuate a strip shopping center as the Cessna 172 circled the area.

A Virginia State Police spokeswoman says the plane landed safely about three and a half hours after taking off.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- Authorities asked business owners to evacuate a shopping center near Smith Mountain Lake as a small plane taken from a nearby airport circled the area.

Franklin County Administrator Rick Huff said the single-engine Cessna 172 took off from Roanoke Regional Airport about 11 a.m. Monday. The pilot was not authorized to take the plane, he said, "and has given some indication that he intends to commit suicide in the plane."

Huff said law enforcement officials have been in contact with the pilot and are keeping the plane in sight. Huff said the plane circled an area that included the lake and nearby counties.

Authorities made a voluntary evacuation of Bridgewater Plaza as a precaution. Huff said some of the 25 or so business owners left.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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