Our blog post back on March 7 discussed the arrest of an eastern Pennsylvania man on federal charges that he disrupted airplane traffic by driving onto a runway at Philadelphia International Airport. In a new development in the case, the man was expected to plead guilty in the case despite the fact that he was reportedly mentally unbalanced at the time of the incident.
As we previously reported, the man, a 24-year-old Chadds Ford resident, is accused of driving his SUV through a fence surrounding the runways and entering the area. Federal prosecutors say the man drove on two runways, reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. Despite the alleged high rate of speed, airport and local police arrested him within minutes.
No weapons or hazardous materials were found on the suspect or in his vehicle, and FBI investigators concluded that the incident was not an attempted terrorist attack. According to his attorney, the man was suffering from irrational thoughts that he was being pursued by a group of people, causing him to drive onto the tarmac. No one was injured, though about 75 airplanes' landings were delayed, including one that was about 20 seconds from touching down before air traffic personnel ordered it to pull up.
The man was charged with disrupting airport operations. Court documents indicate that he was scheduled to plead guilty on July 10.
Readers may wonder why the man chose to plead guilty when his actions were due to apparent mental illness. Without knowing his defense attorney's reasoning, it may be that prosecutors have offered mental health treatment as part of a plea bargain.
Source: Washington Post, "Pa. man accused of driving SUV onto runway at Philadelphia airport scheduled for plea hearing," July 10, 2012