Saturday, April 26, 2014

Another Look At Delvonte Tisdale's Death

In November of 2010 CP penned a blog post on the Delvonte Tisdale event.

My final hypothesis got little traction, but in January a producer from the ABC News Magazine 20/20 contacted me to get some input, and to show the 20/20 crew the site where I believe Tisdale breached the airport perimeter.

But the story was shelved as apparently low interest. Even with the recent stowaway the 20/20 producers saw little need to air the story. So here is the CP take on the tragic events as explained to 20/20 producers.

One of many CP blog posts on Delvonte Tisdale is here.

Applying some teenage logic and general knowledge from a pilot's point of view this is my thinking on how the final hours of Delvonte's life have played out:

If you follow the railroad tracks from Delvonte's home on Whitewood Trail in North Charlotte, the tracks run south along Statesville Avenue heading to North Graham Street, then past The Bank of America Panther's stadium before turning west towards the airport.

Norfolk Southern Rail Road Tracks and North Meck High School

Tisdale Home and Norfolk Southern Tracks Running North and South to Charlotte

Tisdale's Route along the Norfolk Southern Tracks Direct to CDIA

CMPD's missing persons report is here.

The distance from Tisdale's home to CDIA is less than 15 miles, which could be easily walked in 6 hours.

This section of rail is owned by Norfolk Southern, and most trains are slow moving. It is hard to say exactly how Delvonte Tisdale arrived at the airport, but it is a straight run from his home to downtown and then on to the Airport via the tracks. Tisdale could have walked the entire way or jumped aboard a slow moving train. But walking seems to account for the amount of time he was out and about and his arrival after sunset at the airport.

As the track approaches the airport the terrain flattens out, in fact the place where the railroad grade and the transition to Minuteman drive is least severe, almost flat even, just happens to be where the old Carolina's Aviation Museum is located.

From the tracks to the entrance of the aviation museum then over the fence to
Runway 18L   

From the NS tracks it is an easy and welcoming stroll up the hill to where the entrance to the museum was once located. There Tisdale squeezed through the gate and approached the airport perimeter fence where a couple of airport repair stands were chained alongside the fence. The stairs on the stands made for an easy climb over the fence.

This photo taken in April 2010, shows the condition of the fencing.
Once inside the airport perimeter and under the cover of darkness it was an simple 150 yard walk to the runway. There Tisdale found the US Airways flight to Boston waiting in line or at the "hold short" line of runway 18L and made his way into the landing gear wheel well. 

An amazing number of factors made this possible:

In July of 2010 The Carolina's Aviation Museum had relocated further down the runway, but the facility was still being used for storage as it is today, but even in the late afternoon hours there were few if any staff on duty.

The fencing around the Museum was poorly maintained and often unlocked.

During a visit to the area shortly after Delvonte's death CP noted several sections of damaged fencing.

In order to avoid damage from occasional jet blast the maintenance stands were "required" to be chained to the outside of the perimeter fence.

Typical stand that would have been chained to the CDIA fence.

When US Airways Flight 1176 left Gate "C9" at 1802 the aircraft moved along taxiway "M" to the (intersection of Taxiway "C" and "C11" where it remained from 1826 until 1903. From 1903 to 1911 the aircraft moved from the (intersection of taxiway "C" and "C11") to the stop line on runway 18L, and proceeded to take off in a southern direction at 1906. Those 40 minutes where flight 1176 was either stopped or creeping along gave Tisdale ample time to enter the aircraft's wheel well.

A view of KCLT's airport and taxiway layout is here.

The area where the museum is located at the end on runway 18L is very secluded, and the darkness along with cockpit lighting and runway lights would have made it impossible for a flight crew to notice someone approaching the aircraft.

Tisdale was an Air Force Junior ROTC member and reportedly spent a great deal of time involved in ROTC activities and may have had a greater knowledge of aircraft than his parents have admitted or had knowledge. One source tells CP that the North Meck High School made at least two trips to Charlotte's Air National Guard unit at the airport at the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

Finally Delvonte Tisdale, without any close friends was left to his own thinking. The impulsive nature of 16 year boys and the excitement of the airport at night, along with a unimpeded route to the underside of a commercial airliner sealed his fate on takeoff.

Copy of the highly reacted report is here.

The photos below are from time with the 20/20 crew and our visit to the east side of KCLT Runway 18L.

During our time at the old Aviation Museum the 20/20 crew anticipated the arrival of an Airport security team at any moment. In fact someone from the airport did arrive 48 minutes after we started filming, but the CMPD Airport Unit didn't show up until 1 hour and 10 minutes after we setup a tripod and pointed a large video camera at the airliners less than 200 yards away.

Watch Juju Chang's piece on Delvonte Tisdale tonight on WSOC Channel 9 at 10 o'clock.

Cedar Posts leading the 20/20 posse to the site of Delvonte Tisdale's entrance to CDIA
The old Carolina's Aviation complex that CP believes Delvonte Tisdale used to access the CDIA
20/20 Crew filming departing and arriving aircraft on Runway 18L

While the fence around the old Aviation Museum has been replaced since the Tisdale breach and concertina wire added to the top of the fence that Tisdale crossed over, security is still completely absent.
Had we arrived without a motorcade of SUVs and after dark like Delvonte Tisdale we would have been able to enter the airport property and gain access to any US Airways flight we saw undetected.
20/20 Producer Jim DuBreuil giving directions for the shoot at CDIA
Juju Chang discussing CP's possible scenario on camera with aviation expert J. Joseph

20/20 videographer filming the area that CP suggests Tisdale went over the fence.
20/20 Reporter Juju Chang talking with her producer as CDIA staff arrive.

During the course of their investigation 20/20 producers talked to Jerry Orr who refused to go on camera. But he did apparently tell one 20/20 staffer that "there is no real proof that Devlonte Tisdale was ever on the plane."

20/20 producers also reached out to CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe who was preoccupied with the shooting of CMPD Officer Shane Page. Stating that he was spending the day with the Page family.

Soon after the original CP blog post pointed to the non-existent airport perimeter security, CDIA staffers told local Charlotte news media that they had proof that Tisdale entered the airport via the terminal. An apparent effort to deflect blame to the TSA on of Jerry Orr's favorite targets.

It is also interesting to note that the choice of Charlotte for the 2012 DNC was delayed twice following the death of Telvonte Tisdale. Originally set for a year end 2010 announcement, then mid January and announcement came on February 1st, 2011.


Anonymous said...

Cedar, you bring out some very good points in this story.

Anonymous said...

Good article--this brings to light not only how this death could have been prevented, but also the major issue of transportation and physical security at our airport.

Anonymous said...

Here is a more realistic point of view that is very simple. Many baggage handlers are thugs and, in the past even gang members. Yes, do your research. My theory, from someone that has never been interviewed or asked their thoughts or opinions, during this thorough, kick ass investigation, was that Tisdale knew a baggage handler, who had full back door access, and let him ‘piggieback’ through a door, and then told him which flight was headed to Boston, because the baggage handler would have known where that flight was going, have loaded that flight with BAGGAGE. Of course though, we the employees were never asked. Wow, what a thorough investigation. By the way, why is it in an investigation does the investigator not interview that people that understands and know how operations work? Hail to CMPD. It is working out so much better than two years ago.