Rental store's April Fool's prank goes viral

When Billy Cheesman Jr., owner of Redlands-Yucaipa Rentals, Yucaipa, Calif., saw that one of his father’s pilot friends was going to dispose of a rotting experimental plane, he asked for the plane, not yet knowing what he would do with it.

Cheesman, who has a history of pulling elaborate pranks, put a lot of thought into it and decided to use the plane this year for an April Fool’s joke — a staged crash site at one of his two rental locations.

“I didn’t use my location by the interstate because that might have caused a traffic problem,” Cheesman said. “I decided to draw attention to my smaller, less well-known location.”

Cheesman let the local police know about his prank, put blinking bicycle lights on the tips of the wings and used a telehandler to lift and secure the plane into place on a fence at his rental store. Cheesman finished the “crash site” with yellow caution tape and orange traffic cones.

He was hoping to get a photo and story in the local paper, but was surprised when the story went viral and was seen in newspapers and news sites across the world.

“It was overwhelming. There’s a certain risk in doing a prank like this and having it associated with your business, but 98 to 99 percent of the response has been positive,” he says.