Vandals at the Clearfield Lawrence Airport are causing serious safety issues for the flying public, according to airport manager Richard Shaffer.
Last month a local pilot was nighttime landing with his young son onboard, when a deer ran out onto the runway.
The pilot didn't see the deer and the plane struck while it was about two feet off the ground.
The plane's propeller eviscerated the deer and sliced it up into several pieces. Fortunately the pilot and his son were not injured but the accident caused approximately $25,000 in damage to the plane.
"It could have been much worse," Shaffer said. "It could have been a very serious accident," he said. "Someone could have been killed."
The next day, airport staff checked the airport's perimeter fence to determine how the deer got in when they discovered someone had cut open the cyclone fence and used wire to tie it back leaving a three-foot wide opening in the fence to allow them access to the airport's grounds.
However, this also allowed deer to enter into the airport's perimeter to feed on the grass. Shaffer said deer tracks could be seen in the opening in the fence and said they believe this is how the deer got in.
Upon further inspection they found another location where someone had cut open the wire fencing but rigged it up so it wasn't noticeable but could still be removed to allow someone to enter. They then spray-painted the fence posts and on trees outside the fence to blaze a trail so they could find the location again.
Shaffer said he doesn't know why people are seeking access to the airport, but said a taxiway light recently came up missing and said they suspect it could have been stolen for it was located near one of the fence openings.
Shaffer is reminding the public that any unauthorized access to the airport or damaging airport property, equipment, aircraft or aircraft parts is a federal offence that is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines; and imprisonment for up to 20 years or even death sentence if the violator's actions caused an accident that resulted in the loss of life.
He said the airport would also be prosecuting anyone who is caught trespassing on airport grounds both inside and outside of its perimeter fence. Shaffer said they have been having problems with people operating ATV's outside of the perimeter fence but still on the airport's property.