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'Barefoot bandit' campaign for flight training shut down'Barefoot bandit' campaign for flight training shut down

Editor's note: AOPA updated this story Dec. 21 to reflect the federal probation office's move to stop the fundraising campaign.

Colton Harris-Moore, who was convicted of stealing airplanes in 2012 after he led police on an international chase that ended in the Bahamas, launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for flight lessons, but the fundraising effort was quickly shut down by the federal probation office.

Harris-Moore, now 25, earned the nickname “The Barefoot Bandit” when, as a teenager, he stole a series of airplanes, cars, a boat, and other items during a two-year period. He was arrested in 2010 at age 19, after landing a Cessna Corvalis in the Bahamas. He pleaded guilty to federal charges including bank burglary, two counts of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm, being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, piloting an aircraft without a valid pilot certificate, and interstate transportation of a stolen vessel.

In 2012 Harris-Moore received a six-and-one-half year prison sentence. He was released Sept. 28 into a work-release program in Washington state to serve the remainder of his sentence, according to NBC affiliate KING 5.

Harris-Moore, living in Seattle, had asked for $125,000 on GoFundMe to pay for “My Flight Training for My New Life.” He wants to complete a fixed-wing private pilot certificate and instrument rating at The Flight Academy in Kirkland, Washington; a commercial certificate with Galvin Flying Service in Seattle, Washington; and a flight instructor certificate at Rainier Flight Service in Renton, Washington. “Believe me, I love airplanes, but I will never steal one or break the law again,” he said.

At least one of those flight schools is aware of Harris-Moore’s backstory. Luke Lysen of The Flight Academy told KING 5 that Harris-Moore called the flight school to ask questions about flight training.

Additionally, Harris-Moore wants to get a commercial helicopter certificate and instrument rating at Helicopters Northwest, which has locations in Seattle, Everett, and Bremerton, Washington. Harris-Moore’s goal is to fly for Airlift Northwest as a helicopter medevac pilot, he said on his GoFundMe page.

The federal probation office quickly had Harris-Moore stop fundraising, but he had already raised $1,475 as of Dec. 20.

"He is not allowed to have a GoFundMe account to fund his wish to go to flying school when the victims aren't whole. The money in that GoFundMe account will need to go to victims," Chief U.S. Probation and Pretrial Officer for Western Washington Connie Smith told The Seattle Times. Some restitution to his victims was paid when he sold the rights to his story to Sony, according to KING 5. The Seattle Times reports that Harris-Moore still owes $129,000 in restitution.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
Topics: Flight Training, Student

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