The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 10, 2012

‘Wreckless act,’ wheel off plane reported at airport

DENMARK TOWNSHIP — Two safety-related incidents that occurred at the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport in the past month were brought to the attention of airport authority members by President Dwight Bowden on Monday.

Bowden said the first incident occurred the afternoon of March 14, when a Titan T-51 aircraft lost its tail wheel on the runway. The wheel was not recovered, setting the stage for a potential accident if another aircraft were to hit the object.

No incident report was filed, however, so the airport management and staff were unaware of the potential hazard. Employee Bill Burgess checks the runway at the beginning and end of his day shift; however, two corporate jets used the runway the morning of March 15 prior to Burgess making his review.

Authority member Allen Kettunen downplayed the incident, saying that the aircraft’s owner saw the wheel go into the wetlands on the side of the runway. The wheel was located at 5:30 p.m. March 15.

Dave Pontius, the authority’s attorney, told the authority that the absence of an incident report would have created “a lawyer’s dream” if an accident occurred as a result of the wheel being on the runway.

“It changes the whole spectrum of any potential liability,” Pontius said of the incident reports.

A second incident, described as a “reckless act,” involved an aircraft that landed and departed on the taxi area between the runway and the ramp. The event occurred Thursday. As to why the pilot used the taxi strip rather than the runway, Dave Price, airport manager, said “we can make up a story that could be perfectly plausible.”

Bowden suggested a change to the rule regarding reporting incidents, but Price said making users aware of the existing rule may be all that’s necessary.

“We may just need to elaborate on how this rule applies,” Price said.

The authority members want any incidents reported immediately, and if the airport is not staffed, a message left on the airport answering machine. The chain of command for notification can then be followed so an airport employee or authority member can survey the runway for problems and alert users.

“We have to do whatever we can do to increase the margin of safety,” Bowden said.

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