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Thieves targeting aircraft in East Anglia cause more than £100,000 worth of damage in latest raid

PUBLISHED: 12:25 01 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:33 01 February 2017

The fixed-wing microlight, which had its engine stolen in a raid near Needham last month. Picture: Nick Harper

The fixed-wing microlight, which had its engine stolen in a raid near Needham last month. Picture: Nick Harper

Nick Harper

A gang of thieves targeting aircraft engines across the region have struck again - this time causing more than £100,000 worth of damage.

One of the microlights with its engine stolen following the raid on Friday. Picture: Submitted.One of the microlights with its engine stolen following the raid on Friday. Picture: Submitted.

Criminals bypassed CCTV cameras and alarms before making off with six Rotax engines from microlights at an airfield near Norfolk on Friday night.

It comes just days after an aircraft belonging to a hobby pilot from Sprowston, near Norwich, was stripped apart by thieves.

The latest raid, at Sutton Meadows Airfield, near Ely in Cambridgeshire, targeted six aircraft and has affected two flight schools operating there.

A number of tools and spare parts were also stolen in what has been described as a “fairly professional” hit.

David Broom, who runs Airplay Aviation at the airfield, said his business had to be put on hold after his microlight’s engine was taken.

He added: “They obviously knew exactly what they wanted, where to cut and what bits were important, so it was a fairly professional operation.

“As a flying instructor this time of year is tough anyway, but to now have no income stream is very difficult.”

Five flex-wing microlights and one fixed-wing aircraft were targeted.

As with the raid at a hanger near Needham on Sunday 22, thieves stole six Rotax 912 engines.

Cambridgeshire Police, which is now investigating, said it was also looking at other similar crimes across the region.

According to the British Microlight Aircraft Association, there had been at least 10 known cases in the past year, with the majority taking place in the East of England.

Steve Slater, chief executive of the Light Aircraft Association, said criminals were very “clinical” in their approach.

In regard to security, he added: “We are working with police, and they say don’t just have CCTV pointing towards your plane, but also have CCTV on the access roads. We will contact aircraft owners to make sure they are vigilante and to enhance their security systems.”

It is believed the engines are taken overseas by criminal gangs for use on other aircraft.

A police spokesman said the theft took place overnight between Friday, January 27 and Saturday 28.

Call 101 with information.


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