Man Caught Flying Stolen Plane Shoeless

A pilot who allegedly stole a civilian aircraft in Italy on Wednesday was wearing only socks when a French army jet forced him to land.

The plane was disrupting air traffic over Nice, according to a tweet from the French Air and Space Force. This man had flown through several no-fly zones, including airspace over the French naval base of Toulon. He had not established radio contact or a flight plan and did not respond to radio calls, according to multiple French news outlets.

A French Mirage 2000 fighter jet intercepted the shoeless pilot and escorted him to land at the Aix-Les-Milles airfield, between Nice and Marseille. A Fennec helicopter also followed. In fact, the French Air and Space Force said in 2021 they reported 170 "abnormal situations" that required intervention from fighter jets or helicopters.

Shoeless pilot stole plane
A French Mirage 2000 fighter jet intercepted the shoeless pilot and escorted him to land at the Aix-Les-Milles airfield, between Nice and Marseille. Here, a Mirage 2000 jet takes off on March 13, 2022. SEBASTIEN BOZON / Contributor/AFP

Along with his missing shoes, the man was without legal documents. He was in his 30s and said he originally came from Slovakia, local outlets reported. National police took him into custody upon landing.

Aircraft thefts happen in the U.S., too.

Newsweek previously reported that a man attempted to steal a commercial aircraft in Arkansas to fly to a rap concert in Chicago in January 2019.

In 2018, two teenage boys stole a small aircraft and flew it around Utah before they were arrested.

That same year, an Alaska Airlines employee stole a plane and did stunts before crashing it into an island near Seattle.

But how often do pilots fly without shoes?

In a pilot's guide to improving chances of survival during an aviation accident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that clothing is "your primary shelter in a survival situation." The guide added that "closed toe shoes" were safer than sandals and trousers were better than shorts or skirts. Dressing in layers of cotton or wool clothing, rather than synthetics, was also advised for a pilot to adjust to changing conditions. The FAA did not mention the possibility of going without shoes at all.

Pilots for Trans Maldivian Airways in the Maldives, however, do enjoy the luxury of flying without shoes, according to CNN Travel. This seaplane operator has a fleet of 57 aircraft and carries passengers to dozens of destinations on the Indian Ocean islands.

A captain for the airline said that pilots wore a uniform from the waist up, but shorts and sandals below—and the sandals were optional.

"We call ourselves 'barefoot pilots' because when we're in the airplane we actually kick our sandals off and fly barefoot on the pedals," Captain Andrew Farr told CNN Travel in 2019.

Newsweek reached out to the French Air and Space Force but did not hear back in time for publication.