Tallahassee Airport Delays Cause Headaches For Lobbyists, Lawmakers During First Week Of Session

Jan 17, 2020

A man from Pasco County stole a FedEx truck and drove it into a localizer at the Tallahassee International Airport. The localizer is a series of antennas. One is shown damaged from the incident.
Credit David Pollard / Tallahassee International Airport

The Tallahassee International Airport is experiencing delays after a man stole a FedEx truck and crashed it into navigational equipment. As a result, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) couldn’t present his teacher pay plan last Monday.

On January 13, 23-year-old Aaron Lennihan found himself in Tallahassee. According to a police report, his mother had called 911, saying her son’s vehicle had malfunctioned and he was having a mental breakdown.

Later on, police saw someone driving a FedEx truck on the airport’s runway. The driver was Lennihan who said he didn’t know how he got to Tallahassee. After jumping several fences, he found a FedEx truck with the keys still inside. Lennihan hopped in and tried to drive out of the airport, but couldn’t find an exit. When stopped by police, an officer saw the vehicle had been damaged. Lennihan had driven into a Localizer—a series of orange antennas that transmit radio signals to planes. Airport Aviation Director David Pollard says those signals guide aircrafts when it’s hard to see.

The damaged part of the localizer (orange structure pictured) has been replaced, but still needs testing before it can be operational.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU-FM

“During those periods of low visibility as we experienced earlier this week with the dense fog—they’re not able to see the runway as they approach,” Pollard says.

The fog combined with a damaged localizer has so far caused about 20 flight delays.

“I’ve not had an incident quite like this,” Sen. Rodriguez says.

He was supposed to fly into Tallahassee Monday morning, but because of the incident, he says his flight was cancelled.

“There were two teacher rallies I was supposed to address,” Rodriguez begins. “I was supposed to be at a press conference rolling out a piece of legislation related to teacher pay and I was supposed to present a bill condemning white nationalism.”

Rodriguez says Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson filled in for him during the press conference. He also got one of his colleagues to present an amendment for him.

“I think the benefit in my case is that I had very able colleagues and constituents to handle the stuff that I missed on Monday."

Rodriguez says he will be booking a Sunday night flight for next week’s session.

The structure of the localizer has already been replaced, but the Federal Aviation Administration says it could take until the end of January for it to be fully fixed. Spokesperson Kathleen Bergen says her agency still needs to do flight inspections on the device. Until then, flyers could have trouble getting in and out of Tallahassee.