Air traffic controllers move over 1200 flights through Philadelphia International every day. Their job is grueling with zero margin for error and isn't getting any easier thanks to Kenneth Richard Mazik and his desire to see the planes—up close and personal.
The incident occurred at about 11am Thursday morning under foggy conditions. A US Airways Express plane was on its final approach—roughly one hundred feet above the deck, a quarter mile from the end of the runway, and 15 seconds from touchdown, according to Don Chapman, local president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association—when controllers spotted the vehicle on the airport's AMASS radar system. AMASS is designed to ensure the runways are clear and spot potential hazards. This system was being operated manually by the tower crew with no automated scanning or alarms at the time of the incident (side note: why?)
The dark grey jeep sans headlights, driven by 24-year-old Kenneth Richard Mazik, had apparently crashed through a chain-link fence and scurried across several runways before controllers discovered it and immediately called off all five approaching planes.
"Everybody on 9-er left it is going to be a delay. You guys can shut down if you need to. We've got a rogue vehicle driving around on the airport. We are not talking to him. We are not moving anybody until we find this guy," according to tower communication logs (which are, surprisingly, public record).
Mazik was able to evade authorities for several minutes before being apprehended. "It appears he was high on something," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in a statement. Mazik will be charged with driving under the influence, recklessly endangerment, resisting arrest, defiant (!) trespass, criminal mischief, aggravated assault, and simple assault. The airport shut down for roughly a half hour during the incident but no injuries were reported. [CNN]
Image not of PHL: Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock