EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) – Pilots in El Dorado County are calling on officials to step up security at Placerville Airport after a rash of burglaries.
There’s a barbed wire fence that stretches the length of the Placerville Airport but still thieves are managing to break in and take off with thousands of dollars in equipment.
“Most of it, I think, is happening at night, but people may be coming up here during the day…scoping it out,” said Jim Wilson, a pilot from Pollock Pines.
Wilson said a quick trip up north sent him coasting in on fumes.
“You don’t want to run out of fuel on airplane,” he said. “Somebody came up on the property and took five gallons from each can.”
Thieves siphoned gas from tanks he’d topped off the night before.
“It doesn’t happen to the same person every time, but it is infuriating,” he added.
It’s only a portion of the problems they’ve had at the Placerville Airport.
“This last time, thieves actually broke into several airplanes and took out some expensive navigation,” Wilson said.
It’s an ongoing problem now made worse.
“Actually going after the most expensive piece of equipment in your plane shows they knew what they were doing,” said Wilson’s nephew, JR Fierro.
He says several radios were reported stolen last month, each costing up to $10,000 apiece.
“They would take out a radio — an expensive radio — and replace it with the cheaper or an older radio,” Wilson said. “The pilot takes off in his aircraft [and] doesn’t notice it’s gone until he uses it.”
“You think you’re safe behind airport security gates, but you’re not,” Fierro added.
Pilots have tried installing security cameras, but aren’t sure what else they can do.
“This is an airport where you don’t have 24-hour security; this is not SFO,” he said.
They hope this rash of burglaries comes to an end before a tragedy takes place mid-flight.
According to the Mountain Democrat, earlier this year, a local pilot whose plane suffered $9,000 worth of damage tried to ramp up security by suing the county. He lost that suit but the the county has responded by looking into hiring a full-time security guard.