Airport security officials are asking a lot of questions today after a pilot wanted for murder broke into an airport, stole an empty plane, crashed it trying to take off, then killed himself inside. Police put out an arrest warrant for Brian Hedglin of Colorado Springs after his ex-girlfriend was found stabbed to death in her home last Friday. (He had previously been arrested for breaking into her apartment and harrasing her.) Early yesterday morning, in an apparent attempt to escape capture, he scaled a barbed wire fence at St. George Regional Airport in Utah and tried to commandeer an airplane. He was unable to take off, but instead crashed the plane into a terminal building, through a fence, and into several parked cars in the parking lot. When airport employees finally boarded the plane they found Hedglin dead inside of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Just as troubling as Hedglin's behavior is how he was able to steal an unguarded airplane in a matter of just 10 minutes. St. George is a small, one-runway, regional airport with minimal security or activity. However, the plane he stole should still have been locked and security was unaware of the break-in until the plane was already moving. The 50-seat jet usually has a crew of just two pilots, but it seems that had he been in a more sober frame of mine, he could have gotten it off the ground and taken the plane as far as its fuel tank would allow.
Granted, it would have taken an experienced pilot like Hedglin to even start it up — he worked for SkyWest since 2005 — but given our obvious paranoia over airline safety and the TSA's less than stellar reputation for looking after us, this security flaw is definitely one that needs some correction.