On October 25, 1999, the Oklahoma Air National Guard dispatched a group of F-16 fighters to intercept a private plane that was flying way off course. In fact, the twin engine Learjet business aircraft was supposed to have landed in Dallas, but it was now somewhere over Oklahoma state, cruising at 45,000 feet and seemingly on auto-pilot. Its crew could not be contacted on the radio.
Among the plane’s passengers was Payne Stewart, a champion golfer with 24 professional titles to his name, with three majors and 11 PGA Tour events among them. Stewart had a place in the Official World Golf Ranking top ten and, thanks to lifetime winnings of $12,673,193, sat third on the PGA Tour’s all-time earnings list. So, by any measure he was a world-class player.