Pilot of Stolen Cessna Wanted U.S. Fighter Jets to Shoot Him Down

Kucharek said it costs roughly $50,000 per hour/per jet to scramble F-16s. From the time the plane was initially intercepted over Lake Superior near the Michigan upper peninsula until it landed on the Missouri highway, it was followed by two F-16s for more than five hours -- a likely tab of $500,000.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was flying for a while at 14,500 feet. Over 10,000 feet the air is quite thin and commercial planes would be pressurized, but the Cessna 172 is not. As a result, the pilot might have suffered from hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, which could have lead to confusion.

The plane later dropped its altitude to 3,700 feet, where there is more oxygen.

"It had opportunities to go into heavily populated areas," a government official said, adding that It appeared to veer around, "not going to urban air space."

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