Sunday, February 22, 2015

City out to halt airport drag racing: Hannibal Regional (KHAE), Missouri

Efforts have been ongoing to attract more air traffic to Hannibal Regional Airport, but lately the wrong type of “traffic” – motorcycles and cars - have been spotted using the airport’s runway for drag racing.

The topic was raised during last week’s Airport Advisory Board meeting. Lori Brown of Survival Flight, the air ambulance service which has personnel stationed at the airport around the clock seven days a week, noted the volume of vehicles being seen at the airport during the nighttime hours.

“There’s so much traffic,” she said.

It was reported that it’s not uncommon for drag races to occur in the airport’s paved areas, particularly on the 4,400-foot long runway.

“That’s so dangerous,” said Robin Carroll, the airport's fixed base operator.

Carroll also said there is plenty of evidence in the form of cans and bottles to suggest that “after-hours visitors” at the airport are consuming significant amounts of alcohol.

Following the Airport Advisory Board meeting, Carroll contacted Brian Chaplin, the city’s Public Works superintendent. Following a meeting between Chaplin and Police Chief Lyndell Davis, Chaplin says the city will be taking a dim view of unauthorized people on airport property.

“I want it to stop immediately. It’s a problem out there. It’s more of a problem than we thought we had,” he said. “If you’re caught in areas you’re not supposed to be in – taxiway, runway, where the fuel is, anywhere where a plane will be at - and you’re on foot or in a vehicle, and you have alcohol, you will be arrested on the spot and be prosecuted.

“I don’t care who you are, if you’re on that runway with a vehicle… You will be prosecuted and we will prosecute to the fullest. We’ll have zero tolerance for it. It’s very serious.”

Davis is happy to help deal with the problem.

“Since the airport has been experiencing an ever-growing use for private and medical air traffic over the last few years increased police presence was warranted,” he said. “Enforcement will be exercised as needed to curb the problem. Officers were instructed to patrol the property at all hours of day especially at night when the illegal activities are mostly likely occurring.”

Police patrols of the airport have already been increased, according to Chaplin.

“They’re patrolling it every single night,” he said. “They know where people are supposed to be and not supposed to be at the airport.”

In addition to police patrols, Chaplin indicated other security steps are under consideration, such as expansion and enhancement of the airport’s four-camera security system. Also being discussed are options such as a “keyed” gate.

If unauthorized traffic is not halted, Chaplin and Davis are concerned that a serious incident will occur.

“The last thing anyone wants is an preventable incident to occur at the airport due to the carelessness of unauthorized visitors,” said Davis.

“That airport is so busy any more. We have pilots flying in all hours of the day and night. These people, when they’re on the runway, don’t know if a plane will come up to land. They (planes) asre going to come down and hurt somebody or kill somebody,” he said. “If there’s a plane crash out there because of this, it’s bad, it’s really, really bad, because we didn’t do what we were supposed to on our end.”

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