Hazardous Instruments Keep Pilots From Planes

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At least 12 aircraft owners at Chino Airport in California have been unable to get to their airplanes for more than a month because of their neighbor's hobby of collecting luminescent dialed instruments. San Bernardino County officials say there are enough old airplane instruments painted with radium-226 inside two hangars occupied by Preservation Aviation Inc. to create a radiation hazard. Since March 10, authorities have barred access to neighboring hangars. Airport manager James Jenkins told the Daily Bulletin that the neighboring aircraft are not contaminated but the area around them is off-limits. The county estimates it will cost more than $200,000 to collect all the instruments and dispose of them safely. Because the county owns one of the hangars and the land under the other, it will undertake the cleanup but will be looking to get the money back from Preservation Aviation owner Jeff Pearson, who wasn't available to comment. This is the second time the company has been at the center of a radiation scare. The Chino investigation stemmed from the Environmental Protection Agency's 2004 probe of a North Hollywood warehouse in which Preservation Aviation stored thousands of radium-containing instruments. Radiation levels in that warehouse were 100 times greater than normal. The Los Angeles Daily News reported at the time that the cost of that cleanup was $7 million.