The Port of Seattle Police Department says they have a person of interest in the theft of 7,000 feet of copper wire from a runway lighting system at Sea-Tac Airport. 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. No flight delays were reported as a result.
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.
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 thickness.
The FAA reported the wiring was taken from the approach light system for Runway 34L, which is the shortest runway and at the south end of the airport - the one farthest from the terminal.
Sea-Tac has three runways and they all have an lighting as part of their Instrument Landing System. The FAA said losing the approach lights to any runway would only affect plane traffic if several other factors were in play such as a low visibility and moderate north winds.
The FAA said replacing the wire alone would cost several thousand 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.