SLIDELL-- From the air, photography pilot Pat Quigley, with Gulf Coast Air Photo, says the scene was nothing like he's seen in his 50 years of flying.
Minutes before 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, a surveillance camera at the Slidell Municipal Airport captured a truck turning onto the taxiway. Seconds later, another camera caught the same truck speeding down the runway.
"You're coming in, you need a clear runway, and to have some yahoo doing donuts. This was totally, totally unsafe," Quigley said.
Police say 49-year-old John Robertson of Mississippi told officers was "just being stupid" when he dug circular-shaped ruts into the grass alongside the runway by spinning his truck around. He was arrested for reckless operation.
Airport officials believe Robertson accessed the runway by driving through the part of the property designated for the skydiving businesses, which is open to anyone from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
After hours, a code is required to get onto the property.
"The big problem is the businesses that are open during the day ... we have to give them access. We have to give Fedex and UPS and the mail people. They have to be able to get in here," said Airport Executive Director Richie Artigue. "And as long as that business is back there, which we're happy to have them here, it just is what it is."
While the potential to close all gates and require access through a call box is now being considered, both officials and frequent fliers say the first step is for everyone to respect airports, no matter the size, as serious business.
"Anybody that decides to go on and do stupid things on airports deserves to be held accountable," Quigley said.
Officials say similar trespassing has happened in overnight hours before, but no damage or danger like this came from it.
This incident is being reported to the FAA for potential federal violations against Robertson.
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