HIGHLAND | Lansing Municipal Airport manager John DeLaurentiis said Tuesday he would like to have more authority to enforce the law with regard to airplanes engaging in potentially risky behavior at or around his airfield.
DeLaurentiis said he is doing research that includes meeting with state officials to figure out how much police authority he and his staff could have. Once that research is done, DeLaurentiis said he could bring his desires to the Village Board to see if it could approve a relevant measure.
DeLaurentiis made his request public at a hearing at Wicker Memorial Park, 8554 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland. The hearing was coordinated by Indiana Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster. She said she was trying to address the concerns of those Munster and Dyer residents who live adjacent to the airport and have complaints about noise.
Many of those residents said they fear airport officials’ desires to lengthen their runway to about 5,900 feet will bring in larger aircraft that will add to the noise.
The roughly two dozen residents also expressed the belief that Lansing isn’t taking their complaints seriously.
Thomas Schneider, of Dyer, shared the results of Freedom of Information Act requests he made to Lansing to get information about how many complaints have been filed during a four-year period, and how many fines had been collected by Lansing from pilots.
The total number of complaints was in single digits and no record was provided about fines, which makes them think Lansing is being lax in enforcement.
“From an accident standpoint, it is totally ludicrous,” Munster resident Joel Cipowski said. “When you say you want to expand what you can’t protect, I think that’s totally irresponsible.”
DeLaurentiis said part of the problem is that people who try to make complaints often are unable to provide any significant details about the incidents, which makes it impossible for airport officials to follow up.
He also said that much of aviation law is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, whereas he is a Lansing municipal official.
“I can’t pull over an airplane,” DeLaurentiis said, adding that under certain circumstances, pilots are not obligated to respond to his attempts to contact them by radio.
“I might try to contact them, but they don’t have their radio turned on,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do.”
That is why DeLaurentiis said he wants to have more enforcement authority, similar to what airport officials in several southern and western states already have.
Reardon, who said she has contacted U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, to discuss the Lansing airport expansion, said residents would be happy if the airport had more authority.
"You’re the airport police," she told DeLaurentiis. "That’s what we’re asking you to be.”