A flight instructor who allegedly stole a plane from the Palo Alto Municipal Airport and vanished over the Pacific Ocean was arrested two weeks prior to his disappearance, according to court records in Florida's Orange County Superior Court.
William James McAdams, 24, allegedly took a 2011 G1000 Skyhawk 1TG, tail number N191TG, from his employer, Advantage Aviation, without permission on May 8 at 1 a.m. He flew off for an unknown destination and with an unknown motive, according to Palo Alto police.
McAdams was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff in Florida on April 24 for felony second-degree aggravated battery with a weapon (dating violence) and misdemeanor battery (dating violence), according to court records. An additional felony, false imprisonment, was added early this week.
According to an arrest affidavit, the weapon was allegedly a knife. He was released on $16,000 bond on April 27.
According to the arrest affidavit, McAdams and a woman checked into the B Resort and Spa in Disney World in Orlando on the night of April 23. The woman told police that McAdams had recently lost his job and he was planning to move to Florida at the end of April. They got into an argument the next morning at 5:50 a.m. and he allegedly battered her when she attempted to leave. Police arrived after guests and a security guard reported hearing a woman scream for help.
McAdams was arrested after the sheriff's deputies investigated the incident and was taken into custody at 7:22 a.m.
He is to be formally arraigned on the charges on June 2 and planned to enter a written plea of not guilty, according to court records.
McAdams lived mainly in Tampa, Florida, for many years before moving back to Wisconsin with his family, where he completed high school. He attended flight school in Florida and previously worked as a flight instructor at Epic Flight Academy in New Smyrna Beach, according to his company website.
He began working as a flight and instrument-training instructor at Advantage Aviation in Palo Alto in 2012. (Advantage directed inquiries for comment to Palo Alto police.) He also ran his own business, Fly High Bay Area, an aviation supplies and flight training company, out of the airport.
McAdams' mother, Stephanie McAdams, said her son was the most loving son a mother could have, and she asked for the media to not blow the allegations about her son out of proportion.
She described the family as private, regular, Midwestern and working-class.
"My son is the best, most awesome son in the world. He's the guy who calls and asks, 'Mom, how are you doing?'" she said. "I'm just praying. I don't know what happened. I'm just begging the media not to print a bunch of garbage. It isn't OK for my son to be bashed. He's obviously having a hard time with stuff."
The Palo Alto Police Department, which is handling the case, said the plane's electronic signal was picked up off the California coast near the Mexican border. Police have sent out alerts to local, state and federal agencies, the U.S. and Mexican Coast Guards and to all west coast airports to be on the lookout for the plane. Currently, there is no active over-water search, Palo Alto police spokesman Sgt. Brian Philip said.
The last radar hit on the plane showed it was flying southwest over the water, about 70 miles offshore, around 2:45 a.m., according to Allen Kenitzer, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
Update: A U. S. Coast Guard spokesman said the plane sent out an emergency signal at 2:45 a.m.
Philip said Palo Alto police could not comment on the arrest in Florida and McAdams' attorney did not return a request for comment.
Anyone with information about McAdams or the plane is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413.