Woman with infant drives on Phoenix airport runway

Associated Press Published: November 16, 2012
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The airport's operators are satisfied with its fence security and that Sky Harbor exceeds federal security standards, Ostreicher said. She said the airport has no plans at this point to beef up fence security, but will work federal authorities to see if there are other things the Phoenix airport could be doing.

"The important thing to know here is that what was supposed to happen happened," Ostreicher said, noting that once Anderson drove into the secure area, the person testing the gate alerted others and officers arrested her promptly.

Ostreicher conceded it's possible that Anderson could have reached a plane, but also noted that there was no aircraft leaving or departing the area at the time.

Similar examples have occurred at airports around the country.

A man crashed his SUV through a locked gate at Philadelphia International Airport on March 1 and drove down a runway at speeds of more than 100 mph as a plane was fast approaching him from behind. The incident caused a major disruption, forcing air traffic controllers to put dozens of flights into holding patterns and delaying the departures of dozens more. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

In Grand Junction, Colo., a driver smashed through a fence while under the influence of alcohol in 2008 before getting stuck atop electrical equipment. And in September, an apparently mentally unstable woman drove through a fence onto the West Oahu Kalaeloa Airport in Hawaii and asked to see the airplanes. After she was denied, she drove toward a taxing Air Force C-17 transport, but was stopped.

Earlier this year, a man swam ashore at New York's Kennedy Airport after his personal watercraft ran out of gas. He climbed a security fence and made his way onto the airport. Officials immediately beefed up security after the Aug. 13 incident, which did not trigger an intrusion detection system.

Most airports don't have intrusion systems like the one at JFK, but they should be added, said Price.

Beefing up airport gates by adding pop-up barriers would also address vulnerability like that exposed at Sky Harbor Thursday night.

Normal practice for airport workers is to allow the gate to close once they've driven though so another car can't follow it onto the airfield, Price said. But as Thursday night's incident shows, that's not always possible.

Military bases often use pop-up barriers, and Los Angeles International Airport had added some, Price said.

"What we're trying to do is keep somebody from intentionally coming onto the field and driving into a plane, whether that's because they were drunk and accidentally hit the plane or they intentionally wanted to try and hit the aircraft," Price said.

"Frankly, you don't need to fill a car with explosives and drive it into a plane on the airfield. All you have to do is manage to get on the field and hit the plane while it's on takeoff or landing and you're going to have a catastrophe."

___

Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.



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