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Cars race at B'ham Airport

[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11/21/02 ]

Cars crash gate, race around field at Birmingham airport

The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- As baffled airport workers looked on, two cars smashed through a locked gate at Birmingham International Airport and sped across a runway and taxiways before ramming through another gate to escape.

The vehicles never came close to the terminal or any aircraft, and the cars -- a black Cadillac and a white sedan -- were gone before police could catch them. No arrests were made.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe terrorism was involved.

Estimates on the length of the episode ranged from less than two minutes to 15 minutes.

"It was enough time to bust through (the gate), spin out, and bust out on the other side," said police Sgt. Roy Bowden. "They were chasing each other."

Air traffic controllers and ground workers watched in amazement Wednesday.

"They went pretty much in all directions all over the airfield," said Patty Howell, a spokeswoman for the airport authority.

The airport was closed for 15 minutes during the breach, and the Federal Aviation Administration said an incoming flight was delayed about 30 minutes. One or two departing flights were delayed briefly.

The cars slammed into a gate at Pemco Aeroplex Inc., which refurbishes military aircraft, about 1 p.m. and zoomed across a runway. The vehicles exited through a gate at a corporate hangar on the opposite side of the field.

Soldiers from an Alabama Air National Guard unit secured the gate by the corporate hangar until police could arrive from the other side of the airfield.
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