Monday, June 11, 2007

Airport Rangers

Some of the 800 volunteer Airport Rangers pose for a portrait at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Thursday, August 3, 2006.

© Mark M. Hancock / NewsEagles for American Profile magazine

The Airport Rangers program is composed of volunteers who regularly ride their privately-owned horses around the parimeter of the ninth-largest airport in America to ensure safety and security.

Airport Rangers program coordinator David Poynor prepares Shalako, a 13-year-old Chestnut, before a ride at the Airport Rangers station near Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Airport Ranger Terry L. Stevens prepares Chaves, a 6-year-old Rocky Mountain, for a ride at the Airport Rangers station near Bush Intercontinental Airport. Many horse owners rode trails around the airport prior to Sept. 11, 2001. After 9-11, airport officials closed the trails.

Terry L. Stevens rides patrol atop Chaves, 6, as a jet departs Bush Intercontinental Airport. Riders patrol and secure the 12,000-acre wooded perimeter of the airport, which includes some wetlands where only horses can travel. Airport Rangers are trained and can respond to any airport needs including search and rescue operations.

Tamsen Valoir rides Silver Sam, an 8-year-old Arabian, during patrol at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Fellow horseman Richard Vacar, director of the Houston Airport System, suggested a way for airport security and riders to cooperate.

Jill Sisler holds on as Chloe, a 6-year-old Missouri Foxtrotter, stops from a gallop during patrol at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Sisler bought Chloe specifically to join the program and give back to the community. The Airport Rangers program became a successful partnership while initially costing the airport less than $50,000 in training and trail clearing.

Pam Thonsgard rides Meg, a 22-year-old Grayed Pinto, on patrol at Bush Intercontinental Airport. While most riders are only armed with cell phones to report abnormalities, about 50 off-duty law enforcement officers in the program also carry firearms. Thonsgard said she finds and reports illegal activities during almost every patrol.

Terry L. Stevens dismounts and leads Chaves, 6, across a drainage culvert at Bush Intercontinental Airport. While most riders are only armed with cell phones to report abnormalities, about 50 off-duty law enforcement officers in the program also carry firearms.

Airport Rangers Tammy Powell (left to right), David Poynor and Pam Thonsgard chat atop their steeds during patrol at Bush Intercontinental Airport. First-time Houston airport visitors also appreciate seeing horse riders patroling the woods when they glide into Texas.

Please read the Texas Profile story by Beverly Burmeier and see additional photos in the slideshow.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Stunning shots. I examined the two with the airplanes very closely to see if you pasted because they are the same plane, and almost at the same angle... but not quite.
I also have serious doubts that you ever cut/paste. you?
Very good work.


Mark M. Hancock said...

No. I don't digitally manipulate images. If there were pigs flying through the sky on flaming motorcycles while juggling sharks and gators, I would at least label it a "photo illustration."

There's no need to add planes to images when one flies every few seconds. Nor is there any need to add balls to sports images. PJs either get it or they don't.

Yes, I made the group sit in the weeds a long time to get the plane in the perfect location (most flew low behind them). It's a portrait.

Since Continental is based at the airport, there are more of them than other planes. Plus they're big enough to show up in the images and gain elevation faster. The plane by the rider was luck.

Fayrouz said...


If you ever been to Houston International Airport, you'd know how busy is the airport.

I was with Mark that day and I myself have pictures of a plane flying over a ranger's head. It's not uncommon here.

Bryon Houlgrave said...

My question is, was there any special airport security protocol you had to follow to shoot so close to the runway? Was there any communication between you (or the paper) and airport personnel prior to arranging the shoot?

BTW, love the shots.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Yes, airport police approved my access prior to the shoot. Since the riders are part of security, they already had permission and clearance to be there.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


You know I think your work is the best! I love coming here to see it, I am always amazed.
This time was no exception... just surprised to see two Continental planes... didn't realize there were that many there.
Thanks for the explanation; makes a lot more sense.
Giggled that you made them all wait for the portrait, I actually wondered about that, but the positioning of the plane is so perfect in the shot... I thought, well... I don't know, DID he just snap it at the right time?
It's just that perfect.
As are all of your sports shots.
You are very, very good at what you do, which is why you have my respect and the top spot on my link list of favorites.
Work like yours, with ethics like yours, commands it.

Thank you for the reply


Mark M. Hancock said...

I'm a good shooter (think "B") at a good paper. I try to do my best and keep my work professional and beyond reproach. I'll defer to Nachtwey and his cohorts (think "A") for higher praise. They deserve it; I don't. :-)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Extremely talented, unwaivering ethics, and humble too... no wonder I'm hooked on your work and your blog.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore