Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Colton Harris-Moore, Tale of a Teenage Outlaw

Learning To Fly

By their nature, islands can be isolating. It may be for this reason that some police and locals believed it would be easy to capture Colton Harris-Moore. If he's stuck on a small island, the logic goes, then he will eventually run out of places to hide. But what if he can hop 300 miles at a time?

Similar Cessna 182
Similar Cessna 182
Before he could legally vote or drink, Colton Harris-Moore had learned to flyand he did it by himself.

According to his mother, the teen had never actually flown before he's alleged to have stolen an airplane. But, according to police, the boy stole a Cessna 182 from Orcas Island on Nov. 12, 2008, and flew it to the mainland, over the Cascade Mountains, and crash-landed it on a field 300 miles away from Orcas in the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Although police found vomit in the cockpit, the 17-year-old pilot walked away from the crash. The plane was totaled.

Police believe Colton Harris-Moore learned to fly from reading books and playing video game flight simulators.

Crash site and plane
Crash site and plane
"It takes a leap of faith to believe he could do this," local pilot and flying instructor Chris Jacobs told Maxim magazine. "Sure, there's enough information out there to learn everything you need to know, but I don't know anyone else who would dare to try it."

While Harris-Moore's first flight dazzled some people, the police were not amused. Investigators ordered a DNA test from the biological evidence at the crash site.

Because of their expense, DNA tests aren't usually ordered for theft casesbut with their suspect allegedly stealing an aircraft worth over $150,000 and flying it across the state, police could no longer dismiss Colton Harris-Moore as a kid burglar on an isolated island.

Soon, the FBI, the FAA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would take notice.

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