Security breach exposes flaws
Woman got onto tarmac, defeating $5 million fence at airport
A woman who was found in a self-constructed “safety circle” on the Grand Junction Regional Airport tarmac defeated a $5 million perimeter security fence and illustrated apparent weaknesses in a system that was expected to make it possible to open the gates to the public.
A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday the incident was under investigation.
The GroundAware radar system for which the airport paid $163,000 in late 2015 “has done anything but work correctly,” airport Director Kip Turner told the airport board on Tuesday.
The woman found on the tarmac on April 10 not only climbed one fence, but cut her way through another, Turner said.
Airport officials summoned police to deal with Isadora McLean, 46, who had built a “safety circle” using delineators and removed chocks from blocking the wheels of a nearby airplane.
Officials told police that McLean seemed to be “not in a good state of mind” at the time and a woman who identified herself as McLean’s mother said Wednesday that her daughter was at Mind Springs Mental Health Hospital in Grand Junction.
Turner said he had difficulty reaching representatives of Dynetics, the Huntsville, Alabama-based maker of the system to tell them that a camera they had installed wasn’t working.
Company officials didn’t return calls to The Daily Sentinel, but one official in 2015 said Dynetics’ GroundAware radar system “basically stares at an area constantly.”
The system was said to be able to track intruders across airport property, and direct officials to intruders in “alarm zones” using Google Maps and standard web browsers.
“It can in real time detect moving objects, human and animal, vehicles and aircraft, even drones, classify them and then provide information,” company officials said.
A Grand Junction police officer met and interviewed McLean in the main lobby of the airport terminal after she was contacted on an airport ramp.
McLean told officials that she used some construction material from a pile near the fence and used it to reach the top of the fence. She covered the three-strand barbed wire with sandbags, according to the police report.
The materials McLean used to clear the second fence have since been cleared, Turner said, noting that she found a way through the exterior fence, possibly by cutting it, near the unfinished administration building.
TSA officials in October 2015 approved the airport’s proposal to use the GroundAware system.
Officials had said installation of the system could lead to opening the gates and allowing the general public into the aviation-related businesses and the museum.
When the Commemorative Air Force unveiled its TBM Avenger torpedo bomber being on the Colorado State Register of Historical Properties, the museum had to have someone man the gate to allow people in to see the warbird, said Robert Caskey of the Rocky Mountain Wing of the CAF.