THOMASVILLE -- Police have no suspects in the theft of costly aircraft equipment from a Piper Lance PA32 housed at Thomasville Municipal Airport.

The owner of the plane reported early Thursday night that several pieces of equipment valued at more than $17,000 were taken from the plane.

A person who answered the phone at the airport Monday afternoon directed questions about the theft to Irvan Nesmith.

Nesmith, owner of The Plane Station, has leased airport housing for his business since 1982. Nesmith, a pilot for 49 years, repairs and sells aircraft and provides flying lessons.

The owner of the plane, a Thomasville man, rents a hangar from the airport.

The open hangars are designed to protect planes from the elements, but are not secure, Nesmith said.

The hangars are vulnerable to be broken into, said Thomasville police Chief David Huckstep.

Airport grounds are not secured, said Nesmith, who drives his large motorcycle through a gap in airport fencing.

"We patrol it very heavily, particularly nights and weekends," Huckstep said.

The airport is operated by Thomasville government.

Police cannot patrol the facility -- off Pavo Road -- around the clock, the chief said. "It is open, it's insecure," he added.

Police detectives gathered evidence at the scene. An investigation into the theft is under way.

Nesmith, a former corporate pilot, previously held a civilian contract as a flight instructor at Moody Air Force Base.

He said each component of a plane has a different serial number, making it difficult to sell the items.

"They have to have a market that is not looking for data tags on the equipment," Nesmith said about the equipment thief -- or thieves.

Culprits would have to sell the stolen equipment out of this area, he explained.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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