A still image pulled from a private security camera at the Granite Shoals airport shows an unidentified small engine aircraft landing at 2:24 a.m. on Aug. 21. Courtesy image
An unknown aircraft landed at 2:24 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Granite Shoals airport and took off within 15 minutes, leading to a discussion by the city’s Airport Advisory Committee on the hazards of night landings.
During its meeting Thursday, Sept. 8, the committee proposed implementing a daytime-only ordinance at Bob Sylvester Airpark to make landing or taking off at night a municipal violation and give Granite Shoals police the authority to apprehend violators.
“It’s dangerous because this is a very small airport,” said committee Chairman Steve Zbranek. “Even in the daytime, you don’t know it’s here until you’re right up on it. At night, unless you had been here many times, which I suspect this pilot has, it would be almost impossible to find.”
Footage of the unidentified small-engine aircraft was captured by a private security system owned by committee member Al Satterfield.
Granite Shoals Police Chief John Ortis and committee members are mainly concerned over possible aircraft collisions with deer during a night landing or takeoff. A small-engine plane could easily be destroyed if it hit a deer at high speeds, according to both Ortis and Zbranek.
“A pilot coming in at night like that is going to be a concern no matter what because of the safety factor,” Ortis said. “You can go out there on any given night and see a hundred deer.”
Zbranek, who has been a pilot for 44 years, speculated the pilot could have been making some kind of drop-off or pickup. The worry is that a quick turnaround visit in the early morning hours might involve narcotics smuggling, but there is no way of knowing with the evidence at hand. Granite Shoals police are currently investigating the incident.
“It could have been as simple as an equipment malfunction,” Ortis said. “The reality is, we don’t know.”
No visible identifiable markers were seen on the aircraft due to the low quality of the footage obtained and the distance of the camera from the aircraft. Ortis stated that more thorough surveillance equipment would be necessary to identify future aircraft.
The Granite Shoals Airport Advisory Committee will work with Interim City Manager Peggy Smith and the City Council on drafting an ordinance to make night use of the airport illegal.