Airport hangar thieves snag a Corvette - Morgan Hill Times: San Martin

Airport hangar thieves snag a Corvette

Thieves cut through the fence in unusual break-ins

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Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 4:18 pm

A remodeled vintage Chevrolet Corvette, two roll-away tool boxes and aviation equipment were stolen from two separate hangars at the South County Airport in San Martin.

According to the separate reports of commercial burglary filed on Feb. 14, the assailant or assailants cut out a section of the cyclone perimeter fence on Murphy Avenue and entered the hangars through an unlocked pedestrian hangar access door.

In one hangar, they took two Craftsman rollaway tool boxes with tools inside and then pried open a locked office door and removed two Bose aviation headsets and a Bose aviation nav-com radio. Investigators are waiting on a dollar estimate of those items from the private parties who own the hangars.

In the other hangar, they stole a restored Corvette with an estimated worth of $40,000 by cutting through a second section of the cyclone fencing and driving the vehicle through the opening.

Magnum Aviation, which runs a flight school out of the airport, performs aircraft maintenance and is responsible for the upkeep of the taxi areas, leases the land on the north end of the airport from Santa Clara County where the hangars are located. The hangars are privately owned and the owners pay a monthly fee to Magnum Aviation for using the land. In return, the company pays a monthly fee to the county for the leasing space.

There are 54 hangars located on the land leased by Magnum Aviation. According to owner Gary Robinson, those hangars are supposed to be used for aviation-related purposes only and not for other personal storage.

“Those tenants own the hangars, but lease the land with us,” said Robinson, who purchased the land eight years ago from 2Genes Aviation which had already sold the hangars to the private owners. “I inherited that mess.”

Magnum Aviation has a long-term lease with the county for the airport land that expires on Dec. 31, 2020.

According to Robinson, the owner of the hangar where the Corvette was stolen has a plane that is not flyable at this point.

“Maybe we haven’t policed it to the highest degree that we should,” said Robinson of what the owners are using their hangars for because it could put them in violation with the FCC. “I’ve been in aviation for a long time and I’ve never heard of hangars being broken into.”

“This does not happen very often,” said Eric Peterson, the Assistant Director for County Airports. Peterson said the last incident he can remember was more than six years ago when a contractor’s vehicle was hot-wired and driven through the fence, but the vehicle was out in the open field and not in a hangar.

According to Peterson, the hangars go for as much as $70,000 and the owner keeps possession of the hangar only until Magnum Aviation’s lease ends in 2020.

Only two of the 54 hangars on the leased airport land were broken into.

There is not a 24-hour security force for the small, low-volume airport, which is accessible 24 hours, seven days a week. Magnum Aviation does have one security camera on its main hangar in front of their property, but no other cameras that view the privately owned hangars.

There is an electronic gate that must be opened to enter the airport. There have been improvements to strengthen the fencing around the airport, but not at the place where the thieves cut through.

The county, which operates three general aviation airports at Reid-Hillview (RHV) in San Jose, Palo Alto (PAO) and South County in San Martin, applies for grants through the federal government’s Airport Improvement Program to help finance any renovation work.

“This was a one-time event so it’s not the sort of thing we would spend a whole lot of funds on,” said Peterson, who detailed the last federal grant the county received was in 2011 for planning. The county did not receive any grants in 2012 and is not anticipating any in 2013. “We have very, very limited resources.”

And since South County is a “very small, low-volume airport , there is basically no activity there after six or seven (in the evening),” said Robinson. “Obviously, we hope the Sheriffs are watching a little closer as far as patrols. I’m not sure what else we can do.”

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