HOUSTON The KHOU 11 News I-Team is learning of a major security breach at Hobby Airport.
According to both federal and local incident reports uncovered by the I-Team, not only was someone able to jump a security fence at Hobby, that same person stole a tanker filled with jet fuel.
Investigators aren t sure who the person was that jumped the fence, or what their motive was, but many say the entire incident highlights a huge hole in air security.
I think that most security experts and officials you might talk to at the Federal Aviation Administration would agree that somebody being able to steal a truck and drive it on to the runway of a major airport like Houston Hobby is something to be concerned about, USA Today Transportation Reporter Bart Jansen told the I-Team.
According to police, the whole thing began shortly after 3 a.m. on May 16.
A witness told investigators someone jumped the 8-foot high, barbed-wire topped security fence near Wilson Air at the southern end of Hobby Airport.
The witness said the trespasser then got into and stole a tanker truck loaded with jet fuel.
The thief then drove the truck, with its lights off, across at least one airport runway, before heading north toward the terminal.
Eventually the truck was found near another building. The thief was gone.
The entire episode was tough for travelers at Hobby to believe in this era of stepped-up airport security
I didn t think something like that could really happen, said Chiamaka Okorie, of Houston.
I m kind of shocked to hear that actually, said Kevin Dees, of Needville. I would think that our security in airports would be paramount after what happened several years back. We don t need to forget those days.
When the I-Team asked Wilson Air s general manager about what happened, he said he didn t know anything about it.
When the I-Team offered to show him reports from police and the FAA, he drove away.
But Jansen, who has written extensively about airport security, believes the risk at Hobby was real.
The biggest concern in the theft of a fuel truck would be either running it into another object, running it into a plane or perhaps a terminal, or as he did, driving it onto the runway if planes were landing at the time, Jansen said. I think there would be a great deal of concern.
They re concerned shared by flyers that are hopeful changes in security around the airport s perimeter come before the what-if s actually happen.
If things like that are happening it needs to be secured more, said Rita Jackson, of Houston.
Unfortunately, we can t always predict everything crazy people will do, said Randi Whitney, of Friendswood. Sometimes we have to wait until they do those crazy things and then we have to react.
A spokesman for the Houston Airport System would not agree to an on-camera interview.
Instead, when asked about security changes, Director of Public Relations David Hebert said in a statement, Airport security measures are constantly being evaluated and enhanced. Those improvements will certainly continue moving forward, both inside the terminal and along the perimeter fence line.
Meanwhile, Houston police say they re not even sure whether it was a man or woman who caused the scare or what the person s motive may have been.