Small Plane Stolen from Palo Alto Found on Half Moon Bay Beach; Miami Man Arrested

Small Plane Stolen from Palo Alto Found on Half Moon Bay Beach; Miami Man ArrestedSource: San Mateo Police Department
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on February 09, 2024

It was a scene straight out of a Hollywood flick, but for the residents of Half Moon Bay, it was all too real when a small plane was found parked on their beach yesterday. According to a statement from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, the aircraft landed on the sandy shores just south of Poplar Beach, surprisingly intact and ominously empty.

The discovery was made around 5 PM on Thursday, initiating an investigation that led to an even more startling revelation: the plane was stolen from an airport in Palo Alto, CA, stirring concerns among local authorities and civilians alike who, for a moment, entertained fears of what intentions could have been at play by the person at the helm. The Sheriff's Deputies didn't waste time, however, and soon found the suspect described as someone walking away from the crime scene that just had this stolen plane casually dropped off like a forgotten beach toy.

Arrested was 50-year-old Miami man Luiz Gustavo Aires, who now faces serious charges including theft of an airplane. Aires was booked into the Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, where he'll be contemplating his grand escape plan that landed him behind bars instead of on an escape route to freedom. The baffling saga has left locals with more questions than answers, wondering just what in the world was going through Aires' mind when he decided to make Half Moon Bay the unexpected destination for his grand aerial heist.

This is not the first small plane incident to land in the Bay Area's news cycle in the past couple of months. In January, there were two reported crashes of small, home-built airplanes. The first crash, also in Half Moon Bay, claimed the lives of two young couples, including an Oakland woman. The four were en route to a Hawaiian wedding for one of the two couples.

About one week later, another so-called home-built plane crashed, killing its pilot.

The case of the stolen plane that landed on the beach remains open and under tight scrutiny as the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office collaborates with the Palo Alto Police Department to unfold the layers of this unusual theft, authorities are pouring over details to determine what motivated Aires to take to the skies in his felonious flight, and while the beachfront landing was a spectacle, it's no laughing matter for law enforcement trying to keep the skies and our communities safe.