Airport vandals cause $17K in damage

February 24, 2010 4:35:38 PM PST
Vandals targeted a local airport, causing thousands of dollars in damage, but they're lucky the prank didn't cost their lives. Baytown Airport General Manager Charles Danley first noticed it on Sunday when he saw one of his runway lights was missing. The next day, he saw more than a dozen of his runway lights had vanished. The wiring to 5000 volt strobe Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL) was cut. The criminals who cut them could have been electrocuted.

"It appears to be vandalism to me because it was just a select area of the runway," Danley said. "They didn't go down the whole runway. They could have taken every light. They didn't."

There were no broken bits of glass left behind. The vandals picked that up. But there is a lingering sign vandals could not hide -- two distinct sets of footprints along with motorcycle tire tracks.

"There's no question there's two people," Danley said. "Most of the prints are all along the lighting system off the runway. You can actually see where they crossed over and jumped the ditch."

The Baytown Airport sits on over 100 acres off Barkaloo Road and is wide open. Fencing in the airport, says Danley, is too expensive.

Pilots like Darrell Lamb live just off the runway. He worries about his property and says the vandals could have caused more havoc than they realized.

"People are flying in and out of here every night and if you don't have the lights to guide you in then you have to go to another airport," Lamb explained.

The airport was not shut down. There were enough replacement parts to reactivate the lights. The light globes are unique, and it's a distinction Danley hopes will lead to an arrest.

He said, "I'm thinking there's going to be some of these sitting somewhere. If it's a vandal, kids, it's going to be on a table at home."

Although airport operations have not been affected, the vandals are responsible for about $17,000 in damages.