Posted 8/18/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
One man’s test hole is another man’s death trap.
Tioga Airport Authority President Chris Norgaard read a formal complaint from the Tioga Aero Center (TAC) at the board’s monthly meeting Thursday evening.
The letter was filed in response to an incident in which a hole dug to test the thickness of pavement out on the airport lots was filled in without prior approval.
The letter alleges a line operator who is employed at TAC witnessed Eugene Knutson, of Knutson’s Flying Service, filling in the hole, which he wasn’t authorized to do.
The hole was the first step in the construction of a new hangar for transient aircraft. The hole was two-feet wide, two-feet long, and about two-feet deep. It was necessary to help engineers plan the grading of the lots to make sure all the hangars are flush with each other, which will help prevent snow accumulation, according to the letter.
“The contractor needed to dig a hole to determine the thickness of the asphalt,” the complaint read.
The hole was surrounded by cones to warn pilots and pedestrians of its presence. The hole posed no safety hazards to aircraft or patrons, according to the Aero Center’s complaint.
Calls to a number listed for Eugene Knutson’s residence and to a work number were not answered as of press time Monday.
Eugene’s brother, Wayne Knutson, said after the meeting on Monday that the cones could blow away or not be seen by pilots taxiing aircraft around the hangars. He said an aircraft could be totaled if a wheel fell in the hole and the prop struck the pavement as a result.
Speaking after the meeting, pilot Chris DeCresente, who works at Tioga Aero Center, said the hole was well marked to prevent any threat to aircraft.
After reading the letter at the meeting, Norgaard said a board member will discuss the issue with Eugene. Wayne, who was at the meeting, defended his brother’s actions, stating it was necessary for safety.
“Since we are not engineers, I think before we fill something like that in, we should question them rather than take it upon ourselves,” board member Mike Nobles countered.
The board has had a contentious relationship with the Knutsons since 2009, when former president Eugene was convicted of misappropriation of over $300,000 in airport funds.