Yesterday morning as Republic Airlines Flight 3137, operating as a US Airways Express flight, flew a mere 100 feet over Philadelphia International Airport’s Runway 9R, ready to set its wheels down after a brief 47 minute flight from Pittsburgh, air traffic controllers order the aircraft to go around.
What caused the controllers to order the Embraer ERJ-170-200LR to abort their landing? An unauthorized vehicle driving at a high rate of speed straight down the runway.
Initially air traffic controllers believed the unauthorized vehicle to be an airport operations truck, which they initially spotted via the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) rather than visually due to poor weather visibility, a mere 15 seconds before the aircraft landed. Upon visual inspection controllers determined the vehicle was in fact not an airport vehicle, but a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with no headlights.
Airport operations and police vehicles were lead on a brief chase, spanning three of the airport’s four runways, before the vehicle was stopped and the driver arrested. The driver of the vehicle had taken his Jeep off the pavement of Hog Island Road, then proceeded to drive his vehicle in reverse through Gate 25, a chain link entrance at the end of Runway 9R.
What caused the driver, Kenneth Mazik, of Chadds Ford Township, PA, to go off road outside Philadelphia International Airport, then race down a runway? That is under investigation. Mr. Mazik ha sheen charged with Driving Under The Influence, however Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, of the Philadelphia Police Department Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Division says that psychological problems have not been ruled out.
The race to capture Mr. Mazik lasted approximately five minutes, however flights to and from the airport were interrupted for roughly 35 minutes while law enforcement and K9 units searched the vehicle for explosives and ruled out any intentions of terrorism.
So … if you have a Jeep Grand Cherokee you now know your vehicle is both Trail Rated and High Speed Chase Runway Rated.
Happy Flying … err … driving?