GREAT BARRINGTON — Police are investigating the vandalism earlier this month of two airplanes at Walter J. Koladza Airport in an open hangar on the north side of the runway, according to airport manager Kenneth Krentza and co-owner Jim Jacobs.
Krentza said vandals bent the tail rudders of two Piper J-3 Cubs in what he described as a "direct attack" on the airport's flight school airplanes owned by airport co-owner Richard Solan. He said the rudders were bent in exactly the same way on both.
Krentza said the two airplanes were "sabotaged" overnight as they sat inside with three privately owned airplanes that went untouched. Another flight school plane had a mark on it, but was not damaged.
"And there was no other damage to any other aircraft on the field," he added.
"Rick took it very personally, and checked every other customer's plane for damage," Krentza said.
Aircraft owners and town police were notified right away.
Krentza said town police told him they have no leads so far. Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh said in an email the investigation into the "malicious destruction of property," a felony offense, is being conducted by his department, state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, and the state police Crime Scene Services Section.
Krentza said the damage amounted to about $8,000 to $10,000. The airplanes were repaired and are flying again, but he said there was a "significant" loss in income during the repair time. Dual instruction in one of the Pipers is $115 per hour.
With the airport embroiled in controversy over its plans to build three new hangars next to the north hangar, Krentza said the timing was unfortunate. Yet it does appear to support Jacob's claim to the Select Board at a Monday hearing that safety is yet another reason the hangars — with enclosed and locked bays — are much needed.
The airplanes were put away in the north hangar on the night of May 2, and the lights turned off, Krentza said. The damage was noticed when the Pipers were taken out on May 4.
"It was quite obvious the damage was done once they were brought into the sunlight," he said.
Had it not been noticed, that type of rudder damage would have caused the airplane to roll in flight, though Krentza said it is unlikely a pilot wouldn't have noticed the problem before he took off.
"Every pilot does a thorough walk-around before he flies," he said.
Krentza said as far as he knows, something like this has never happened in the airport's 86 years.
"It's a malicious attack," he said.
Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871.