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Wed, Mar 08, 2006

Drunk Man Breaches Security At Chicago's Midway, Takes Stroll Along Runway

Maybe He Wanted To Buy It?

We honestly don't know where to start with this one, except at the beginning. Chicago city officials confirmed Tuesday that an intoxicated man was able to sneak through a security gate at Midway Airport this weekend, where he proceeded to then take a stroll along the runways.

A Southwest Airlines employee spotted 22-year-old Mark Mechniek Sunday afternoon, standing between two runways. The employee alerted the control tower, who sent out several security officials to remind Mechniek -- with force -- that he was NOT free to move around the airport.

Runway 4-Right was closed during the security breach, Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams told the Sun-Times.

The security -- ahem -- guard who was manning the gate Mechniek walked through has been placed on paid administrative leave. The officer has been on the job since July 2001, Abrams added, and officials believe Mechniek was able to walk through the gate while the guard's attention was diverted by a vehicle leaving through the gate at the time.

As for Mechniek, once he sobered up he was charged with reckless conduct, and trespassing on airport property. He also confessed to being intoxicated.

Southwest Airlines has expressed concern over the security lapse -- not because of any threat Mechniek might have possessed to an aircraft ("the blast from the jet would blow [him] over like a leaf," one pilot colorfully said) but rather by who else might be able to gain access in a similar manner. Say, someone with a shoulder-fired missile.

"We leave the security of the airport up to the Aviation Department and the [Transportation Security Administration]," said airline spokeswoman Marilee McInnis. "We have full faith in their abilities and the job they do. In a situation of this type, we hope this will be used as a learning opportunity for the future."

Perhaps Mechniek -- a Polish citizen who reportedly lives about a block from the inner-city airport -- was interested in buying the airport, and simply wanted to have a look around?

FMI: www.chicago-mdw.com

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