Drunk driver enters Philadelphia airport runway

Drunk driver enters Philadelphia airport runway

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Washington:  A drunk driver drove through a gate and onto a runway at Philadelphia International Airport, sparking a terrorism scare and forcing a passenger plane to abort its landing at the last minute, authorities said.

Flights at Philadelphia International Airport were halted for 35 minutes on Thursday after Kenneth Richard Mazik, 24, drove through a gate into a restricted area and onto a runway.

Mazik was taken into custody and charged with driving under the influence, recklessly endangerment, resisting arrest, defiant trespass, criminal mischief, aggravated assault and simple assault, media reports said today.

Don Chapman, local president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Philadelphia said he was told an air traffic controller using radar spotted something on the runway, but could not see exactly what it was because of foggy conditions.

"When they spotted the Jeep there was a US Airways Express plane 100 feet above the ground. It was 10-15 seconds (from) touchdown, about a quarter mile from the end of the runway," Chapman said.

He said the controllers then ordered the approaching plane not to land.

The jeep was reportedly dark in colour and did not have its headlights on and authorities chased the vehicle across three of the four runways.

US Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said the airport was closed for about 35 minutes. In addition to the one aircraft about to land, four other aircraft went into holding patterns until the airport reopened, she said.

The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration have opened investigations into the incident.

Story First Published: March 02, 2012 16:32 IST

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