Police: Man takes trucks, boards Southwest jet at Hartsfield-Jackson

Overnight incident Jan. 6 involved breach of Atlanta airport’s perimeter

An alleged trespasser accessed the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport grounds one night last week, went for a spin in a pair of trucks and boarded an airplane sitting in a Southwest Airlines hangar before being apprehended, Atlanta police said.

Officers responded to a call about a man who allegedly took a Ford F-150 pickup belonging to Delta Air Lines on the north side of the airfield after 3 a.m. on Jan. 6, which is during the largely dead overnight hours at the world’s busiest airport. The area is near where Delta Air Lines has its headquarters, Southwest has its maintenance hangar, and there are also cargo operations and a private air terminal.

A Delta worker told police that the suspect, who police identified as Terence Karl Anthony Stewart, took the truck and drove it into the Southwest hangar, the police report said.

The worker and an airport representative followed him to the hangar, where Stewart got out of the vehicle and walked up a staircase onto an airplane and encountered a Southwest employee in the cockpit, the police report said.

Another Southwest employee confronted Stewart, prompting him to leave the plane, run out of the hangar and drive off in a second Ford F-150 pickup that was left running by a Delta worker who was following him, according to the police report.

The Delta worker and airport representative then followed Stewart around the airport grounds and finally stopped him near the North Cargo area.

The police report said Stewart “possibly entered the airport property” near 1200 Toffie Terrace, near the Signature Flight Support private jet terminal.

A Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman said airport workers “followed protocol” and “challenged the suspect to present his authorized credentials, reported him to 911, maintained a safe distance while keeping him in sight, and provided information to Atlanta Police officers responding to the incident.”

Stewart was arrested on charges of criminal trespass and two counts of auto theft.

It’s not the first time the airport has had problems with people breaching the airport’s perimeter, a significant security issue.

Twice in two weeks in 2018, trespassers scaled fences to enter off-limits areas at Hartsfield-Jackson.

In one of those incidents more than four years ago, a man scaled a razor-wire fence, ran onto an active taxiway and toward a plane. The incident temporarily halted some flights, and some of the plane’s passengers posted photos and video of him wearing only underwear outside the aircraft.

The 2018 incidents prompted the airport to quickly install concertina wire around the airfield. The coiled razor wire was added on top of barbed wire on about 20 miles of perimeter security fencing that year.