The Port of Seattle Police Department says they have a person of interest in the theft of 7,200 feet of copper wire from a runway appproach lighting system at Sea-Tac Airport's third runway, runway 34 Left. The 28-year-old man was arrested Thursday in another burglary case.
The wire was stolen in February. The theft disabled six air traffic light towers going to the southern approach. No flight delays were reported as a result in part because Sea-Tac's traffic flow over the winter is almost always from the north.
The heist was seen by aviation experts as a brazen act. Whoever was responsible had to cut through two layers of fencing to reach the wire.
As KING 5 visited the site looking for signs the FAA was fixing the lighting system, we found what appeared to be a previously undiscovered hole in the outer fence near some dumpsters. It's a large hole a person could easily move through. We pointed the hole out to a Port of Seattle patrol officer, who immediately checked it out.
Three other holes along the north side were still unrepaired. Two other holes along the west fence had been repaired.
The most likely motivation is money. A check of local scrap metal yards showed electronics grade copper is going for about $1.10 to $1.30 per pound. The weight of copper wire depends on the diameter. .
The approach lighting system is considered important for saqfe landings in poor visibility and bad weather.
Sea-Tac has three runways and they all have an lighting as part of their Instrument Landing System.
The FAA said replacing the wire alone would cost thousands dollars, as well as replacing connectors and repairing fences. The theft prompted a federal investigation.
The person of interest in the wire case is also under suspicion for a separate burglary in King County.
Editor's Note: Our original story alluded that this person of interest had been arrested for the copper wire theft case. A Port of Seattle spokesperson said he is only a person of interest at this time.