Thu, Aug 18, 2011
Raleigh TV Station Notes GA Airports Lack TSA Oversight
The story of a plane stolen from the campus of the University of
North Carolina is being portrayed by local media as an example
of how general aviation lacks the TSA security mandates that keep
WRAL-TV in Raleigh reports a man was able to steal a Piper
Saratoga (file photo of type shown) Monday night or Tuesday morning
from Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill in part because the
airport is not staffed between 2000 and 0600. Officials first knew
something was wrong when the ELT went off. The plane was found
crashed in a wooded area off Wildlife Club Road near State Highway
87, just after noon. Sheriff Terry Johnson says K-9 teams tracked
the suspect's scent out of the woods, but then lost it. There was
blood in the plane, suggesting the thief was injured in the
Businessman Larry Warren, the owner of the plane, told WRAL he
parked it about 2100 Monday, after last flying it. He checked the
wreckage after it was found, and figured out a few things about the
perpetrator. "I record the hours when I get in it and when I get
out of it, and it looked like he had flown for 1.9 hours somewhere.
I don't know if he was flying around or if he went somewhere and
was coming back."
Warren adds that he suspects the thief simply didn't know enough
about the plane to operate the fuel tank selector, because only one
of the tanks had been run dry.
WRAL talked with aviation attorney James Crouse, who said the
lightweight doors and windows and lack of heavy locks on planes
make them easy targets. "The aircraft itself is ripe for being
broken into. Aircraft are not made to be secure; they are meant to
fly in the air." He called security at Horace Williams the norm for
small GA airports. UNC officials say the airport is included in
their security patrols, and that this is the first time a plane has
been stolen there, but add that pedestrians have access to the
apron at any time.
The news story did make mention of AOPA's Airport Watch program.
As of Wednesday, officials had issued a warrant for the arrest of
46-year-old Curtis Rene Mellott of Chapel Hill, although he had yet
to be found.
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