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The best helicopter prison escapes of all time

There are prison escapes, and then there are HELICOPTER PRISON ESCAPES

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Escaping from prison can be hard.

Not everybody is El Chapo, with billions of dollars to bribe corrupt officials and pay teams of laborers to build us elaborate tunnels. Not everybody is that guy from upstate New York with the big dong who convinced that lady to get him out of prison. Not everybody is Andy Dufresne, a fictional character with inhuman amounts of willpower and discipline. Some of us are just regular people who have committed heinous crimes and lack the remorse to remain imprisoned.

For these people, there are helicopters, a device perfectly designed for prison breaks. They can swoop in, hang out for a bit, and swoop out in a matter of under a minute. Their arrival often perplexes guards, who might be unwilling to shoot down a multi-ton object that can crash onto the prison and cause more chaos. The helicopter prison escape is such a good method of prison escape that there is a Wikipedia page solely devoted to helicopter prison escapes. (Note the icons for successful or unsuccessful.)

Even so, it's difficult. You need somebody to fly a helicopter, and if that's just one of your pals, they might suck at flying airplanes and crash it when it gets overloaded. If you get somebody to hijack a helicopter,you might accidentally be sending them to attack a Vietnam vet, who will instantly take their gun and shoot them. And yeah, prison guards might shoot you.

However, if you do succeed, it's probably pretty spectacular. These are the five best prison escapes via helicopter we could find:

Michel and Nadine Vaujour, 1986

Michel Vaujour had committed a lot of crimes -- he'd been jailed 10 times, starting when he was 17 -- and in multiple instances he attempted to escape as well -- three times he'd tried and three times he'd failed. So he was put in France's Prison de la Santé, where many of France's most famous and dangerous prisoners are held, and kept under security.

But using a fake gun and nectarines he painted to look like grenades, he got onto the roof of the prison. His wife, Nadine, had spent the last few months quietly training to fly helicopters, discreetly renting the same helicopter every few weeks and returning it with no problem. This time, though, she flew to prison, lowered her husband a rope, and the pair flew away to a nearby soccer field.

Vaujour tried to escape from prison via helicopter *again* in 1993, but the prison was alerted before the chopper's arrival.

Pascal Payet, a bunch of times

Pascal Payet's first prison helicopter escape took place in 2001. Two years later, while he was on the lam, he took another helicopter back to the same prison and helped three different inmates escape. Once the French recaptured Payet, they decided to move him to a different prison every six months in order to keep him under close surveillance. But he still managed another helicopter escape in 2007. Payet is currently being held at an undisclosed location by French authorities; one assumes it is underwater or in a volcano or somewhere else helicopters can't reach. (Submarine escape, though.)

Vassilis Paleokostas, pt. 1, 2006

You can listen to a million metal albums and not hear anything as metal as this: Paleokostas' brother, Niko, flew a helicopter onto the roof of Paleokostas' prison, and promptly flew him and two other inmates to a graveyard ( \m/) where there were WAITING MOTORCYCLES ( \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ ). Graveyard motorcycles are metal as hell.

Ronald McIntosh and Samantha Lopez, 1986

Love makes a man do crazy things.

Ronald McIntosh broke out of the Pleasanton Federal Correctional Facility pretty easily, walking out the door of the minimum security prison. Perhaps McIntosh could've made it for a long time on the outside after a relatively under-the-radar escape. But instead, he had to go get his girlfriend, Samantha Lopez, who was serving a 50-year sentence for armed robbery in the same prison he'd just walked out of a week earlier.

He rented a helicopter, pulled a gun on the pilot, and went to get his girl, having the chopper fly into the exercise yard where she was waiting. They spent 10 glorious days on the outside together, but after FLYING A HELICOPTER INTO A PRISON AND LEAVING WITH AN INMATE cops were hot on their trail. McIntosh used a check to purchase wedding rings at a Sacramento shopping mall, and when he and Lopez went to pick them up, they were recaptured. McIntosh reportedly yelled "I LOVE YOU" out of the window as he and Lopez were driven away in separate police cars.

Vassillis Paleokostas, pt. 2, 2009

When you're captured after a prison escape, you aren't just put back into prison to serve our your previous sentence -- you get prosecuted for the escape itself. So one might think when Vassilis Paleokostas was transferred to Korydallos Prison to stand trial for his 2006 helicopter escape from that very facility, the staff there would have said "Hey, maybe look out for helicopters. They could be used to get out of this prison of ours." Apparently, no such conversation took place, because Vassilis Paleokostas managed to avoid his helicopter escape trial by escaping confinement via helicopter. It's so meta.

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