His team ran through the checklists and lit engines. Immediately, a jeep-load of gendarmes appeared and Popovich was hauled before a magistrate. “In my infinite wisdom, I admitted that there was something posted on the aircraft’s door,” he recalls. “But I informed the judge that if it was really so important, it should have been in English, since that’s the official language of aviation.” The next day he was escorted, in handcuffs, to the first U.S.-bound flight and sent home.
Popovich and team flew to Madrid and reentered France via rail. At de Gaulle they found the MD-80 still grounded, with tanks drained and more French fine print attached. An Air Afrique Airbus next to it was being refueled. Popovich talked to the captain and got him to sell enough fuel to get as far as Iceland. “Everyone was going to be looking for us,” he says, “so I wanted to get out from under Eurocontrol ASAP.” He had already exercised power of attorney to de-register the aircraft from its Luxembourg flag and had obtained a U.S. registration number. The de Gaulle tower cleared the now-American plane for taxi and takeoff. Popovich landed in Iceland with less than 30 minutes’ worth of fuel remaining.
Link via Instapundit | Photo: NASA