southwest plane

Perimeter Security in Question At Texas Airport After Man's Death

Man on Austin runway killed as Southwest Airlines plane lands.

Security at the perimeter of the Austin, Tex. airport has come under fire following the death of a man who was struck by a Southwest Airlines airplane landing at that airport. Airport officials have confirmed that the man who was struck by the airplane did not have an airport badge (credentials) and was unauthorized to be on the secure side of the facility.

The victim has been identified as 22-year-old Junin Ko.

As federal investigators search for answers, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, who has about 60 years of experience in the aviation industry said the situation is “a little bit embarrassing.”

“… Maybe a major embarrassment for the airport itself. It's a great concern for the security people in the airport,” said John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member.

Security at the Austin airport is maintained by the city’s Department of Aviation, the Austin Police Department, TSA and all employees who work at the airport. An airport spokesperson said airport staff “have been and will continue to be in compliance with out TSA-approved Airport Security Program.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Southwest Airlines flight 1392 landed in Austin from Dallas at 8:12 p.m. on Thursday. The pilot reported seeing a person on the runway to air traffic control while landing at the airport, but but in those final seconds of landing, Goglia said a maneuver likely couldn’t have made much of a difference. Southwest Airlines quickly responded with a statement following the tragedy.

“Southwest flight #1392 arrived safely, (carrying 53 passengers and five crew members) after being cleared to land on runway 17R at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) this evening. The Southwest aircraft maneuvered to avoid an individual who appeared on runway 17R shortly after touchdown. The aircraft quickly came to a safe stop, and the Pilots reported the event to local air traffic controllers. After receiving further instructions from controllers, the aircraft taxied to the gate where all Customers and the Crew deplaned the aircraft safely with no reports of onboard injuries. Tonight's flight landed at 8:12 p.m. CDT, after arriving from Dallas Love Field (DAL).

"Southwest is fully cooperating with local law enforcement and FAA as they investigate this event. Our Southwest Hearts extend to the individual involved, and we sincerely thank our crew for their professionalism and swift response.”

An airport operations employee found the victim minutes later, before medics responded and the man was pronounced dead.

“It's the most busy time of the landing,” Goglia said, “and if it's anywhere near nighttime, the visibility on the runway is grossly reduced.”

It was the first time something like this has happened at Austin’s airport in its 21 years. The FAA said it’s so rare that it’s not something the agency tracks.

“Something happened here that allowed this guy to get in, whether it was a lapse from the people who designed the system or a lapse with the equipment. But in any event, this individual got into an area that he should not have been,” Goglia said.

“When he's that close to touchdown, he's committed. He's touching down. So, it doesn't matter what mysteriously shows up in front of him. It's too late,” Goglia said.

The NTSB was notified of the incident but delegated investigative authority to the Austin Police Department, which is leading the investigation with help from the FAA and the Austin airport.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is the Publisher of Security Today magazine.


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