Authorities investigate slashings of 87 airplane tires at Alaska airfield

Authorities in Alaska said Thursday they are investigating an overnight vandalism spree at a small airport where dozens of airplanes had their tires slashed.

About 87 small planes at Merrill Field, on the edge of downtown Anchorage, had their tires slashed. Jennifer Castro, a police spokeswoman, said officials are investigating the vandalism but provided few details.

Airfield manager Paul Bowers said surveillance footage was being reviewed as part of the investigation. Merrill Field is home to about 830 aircraft. The field has more security cameras than any other aviation airport in Alaska, he said.

"But it's not a panacea," he said. "It's not a perfect system, and we don't know if we've captured everything that can be captured at this point."

Bowers called it ironic that the airport is in the midst of upgrades to its security system, including its camera network, fencing, and vehicle entrance and exit gates. But the existing system was operating at the time of the vandalism, he said.

The best guess so far is that the vandalism occurred between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Thursday, Bowers said. Citing a request by police, he declined to say what areas of Merrill Field were targeted in the spree.

Chris Seaman, an Anchorage native, got to the airport at about 6:45 a.m. and was shocked at what he found.

"Driving into the parking area, we were like, 'Wow, there's a lot of flat tires out here,'" he told the Alaska Dispatch News, "and realized, 'Holy (sic), all the tires were slashed.'"

The affected aircraft owners have been notified directly or through messages, Bowers said. Aircraft tires can run as high as $2,000 each. He said the total could end up costing $200,000.

Bowers he has been in airport management for more than 30 years, and the slashings are the first such incident he has encountered. "Never heard of it, anywhere in the world," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.