Police say at just after 10:00 a.m. a Jeep Cherokee rammed through Gate 25 near Hog Island Road at the west end of the airport.
The actual gate itself ended up landing 50 yards from the entry point.
Startled construction workers watched as the driver, identified as 24-year-old Kenneth Mazik of Chadds Ford, continued to drive down one of the main runways.
"The ground radar kicked in; the tower was alerted immediately and they made sure to divert flights coming in and then quickly shut the airport down," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.
Police chased the Jeep on the two main east-west runways and surrounded him after he hit a couple of runway lights and slowed down.
Police say when they got a hold of him, Mazik appeared to be intoxicated.
Witnesses say Mazik was parked outside the gate apparently waiting for one of the planes to come in for a landing. As an incoming plane approached he then allegedly accelerated - blasting through the gate and onto airport property.
Those who saw the incident unfold say it appears as though Mazik attempted to time it so that the Jeep would meet the plane as it landed. Police say the vehicle never made it to the runway as officers were able to stop Mazik.
One plane just about to land had to be diverted as air traffic controllers struggled to get a handle on the situation.
"Wisconsin 4086...everybody on niner left it's gonna be a delay. You guys can shut down if you need to. We've got a rogue vehicle driving around on the airport. We're not talking to 'em. We can catch 'em," a controller said.
By 4:00 p.m., all runways were reopened.
There are a number of gates like Gate 25 around the perimeter of the airport. They too are unmanned, but the airport says they are reasonably secure.
"We do have security perimeter checks on a regular basis, multiple times, every shift throughout the entire day; so we're fairly confident with our security," Philadelphia Airport Deputy Director Keith Prune said.
Police did an initial search of the car for explosives or other material that came back negative. The car was apprehended by police and taken into custody.
As for Mazik, he has been charged on the state level with Driving Under the Influence, Recklessly Endangering another Person, Resisting Arrest and related offenses.
He was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for observation and drug and alcohol tests.
A spokesperson tells Action News, Mazik will be admitted to the hospital; it's believed he has been undergoing a psychiatric evaluation since he's been taken into custody.
Action News went to Mazik's home in the 400 block of Kennett Pike in Chadds Ford Thursday afternoon.
Pennsylvania State Police and other unmarked law enforcement vehicles were on the scene.
They had been apparently looking for evidence and talking to Mazik's brother who lives just next door.
After police left, no one came to the door at Mazik's house.
It was unlocked and unsecured.
There were signs of extensive and expensive renovations at the large stone house.
A number of childrens toys were found in the home
A red Mini with a smashed window was parked in the driveway.
Action News spoke to neighbors who knew Mazik.
They were baffled the reports from the airport and described him as pleasant, but somewhat unfocused.
He was particularly proud of the black Jeep Cherokee which he said he had fixed up, "for his baby's mama."
That Jeep and Mazik are now both in custody.
The investigation in this airport incident is ongoing as Mazik may also face federal charges.
Find out about Breaking News as it happens. Sign up for 6abc.com Breaking News Alerts.