Woman Drives Car Onto Runway at Phoenix Airport

A twenty-one year old Mesa woman, with her child in the car, drove through a gate and on to a runway at Phoenix-Sky Harbor Airport.  According to authorities Nicole Anderson and her infant son rammed through the partially opened gate at approximately 10:00PM.  No planes were on or near the runway when the incident occurred.  According to the AP who interviewed the woman’s  mother, there is a history of mental illness, “She’s not going to be stable until she gets on medication. I’m so scared. I’m at a loss of how to help her”, noting that her daughter suffers from a bi-polar disorder. “I’m just really hoping someone can advocate for her.”  Nicole Anderson, was booked on aggravated DUI and criminal damage charges.  The fact that anyone can drive a car through a fence and have unfettered access to a runway, demonstrates a serious breach of security.  There are a number of highly vulnerable airports and perhaps luck is the only reason there have been no serious incidents.  Are terrorists not watching and waiting for an opportunity to strike, when it appears so easy to breach airport security?  It seems logical that runways be surrounded by impenetrable barriers.  One might argue a thousand mile perimeter fence (1600km) separating Mexico from the US is unrealistic but barriers around airports doesn’t seem that far-fetched. At a time when many of the largest airports are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades and new terminals, building in the cost of protecting the Air Operations Area (AOA) should be a major part of the plans.  This is not the first incident of an unauthorized vehicle making it on to the runway at the Phoenix airport.  In 2005, a man driving a stolen pickup drove through the fence  in attempt to allude police and passed several planes on a taxiway.  In 2003, there was another incident when two teens, driving a stolen car crashed through the fence.  Do the authorities need to experience a serious incident involving an aircraft and loss of life before acting? Hopefully, this latest incident will be the catalyst needed to spur airports across the country to re-visit the issue of tarmac security.

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