Pilot says 'crazy kid' tried to hijack helicopter at Yuba airport
A Santa Maria man was behind bars Friday after he allegedly tried to hijack a helicopter at the Yuba County Airport.
Zachary Hinders, 20, was accused of jumping into the back of a chopper and ordering the pilot to take off. Hinders was unarmed.
Veteran pilot Erik Vandagriff was not amused.
"Fortunately, I didn't have to touch him to get him out or fill him full of lead or anything," Vandagriff said.
Vandagriff, 41, chief pilot for A&P Helicopters, was training a new pilot on Thursday at about 4:30 p.m.
"We're on the runway, and all the sudden I see this crazy kid running straight at us on the runway," Vandagriff said.
The man, later identified as Hinders, charged the helicopter, opened the door and jumped inside.
"It scared the (crap) out of us. We didn't know if he was strapped with dyn mite or what the hell he was thinking. He was acting so weird," Vandagriff said.
Hinders allegedly gestured for Vandagriff to take off, and was yelling at the pilot, but couldn't be heard over the engine noise, Sheriff Steve Durfor said in a press release.
Vandagriff ordered Hinders out of the helicopter and was considering more drastic measures when, just as suddenly, Hinders bolted out of the aircraft, ran across the runway and scaled a barbed-wire fence, fleeing toward Arboga Road.
"I chased down a few cops that were close by and they chased him down," Vandagriff said.
Hinders was booked into the Yuba County Jail on suspicion of burglary, attempted robbery and attempting to take a helicopter without the owner's consent. Bail was set at $25,000.
Investigators are reaching out to the Federal Aviation Authority and more charges could be pending.
"I'd call it an attempted hijacking, wouldn't you?" Vandagriff said.
Durfor said a motive for the incident has not been determined.
Hinders said he was told to take the aircraft by Fidel Castro, according to investigators.
Vandagriff believes the incident is a good argument for all pilots to carry guns.
"Here you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a fence and actively flying and this crazy (guy) just jumps inside. It could've been worse," he said.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.