TORONTO — J. Leonard Wood today is ADT’s manager, aviation services. For some 24 years he has worked around airports and security, starting with ten years at BWI. As security tightened at U.S. airports in the ‘90s, Wood focused exclusively on airport security as a private contractor. He has been involved with and chaired major industry association committees on safety and security, and was a member of the working group that created for TSA its Security Guidelines for GA Airports.
During the recent annual meeting held here by the Airports Council International-North America, one group with which Wood has long-term involvement, he sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss the state of airport security.
Following are edited excerpts ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: To begin, where are we at regarding airports, security, and the threat?
Wood: I would divide it into commercial airports and general aviation airports.
Nothing has changed in the Part 107 transition to be 1542; the same rules that have existed since 1989 continue to exist to keep only authorized people near commercial airplanes. The FAA used to use a method of making changes to 107, though they only made one of them, and they’d come out with bulletins to airports. Now, there are Security Directives that come to an airport, that may fine tune a regulation for a particular period of time for that airport.
So, we’ve had a stable field, if you will.
Two initiatives currently going on could change that. In the Aviation Transportation and Security Act of 2001 Congress directed TSA to check people coming in from perimeter points onto the airport. It didn’t give a timeframe. In the Intelligence Reform Act of last December, Congress reiterated and said it wanted to see biometrics used in access control at airports. So, there are two items. Let’s just say I’m confident TSA is working on it.
Looking at general aviation, prior to 9/11 there were no rules. After 9/11, there was a hue and cry, most audible in Congress, that general aviation was a dark hole. So, TSA, not being stupid, got representatives from AOPA, GAMA, ACC, ACI-NA, etc. to form some sort of document for GA airports and to categorize them.
But they fall into two categories: private and public-use. So, let’s rule out private use airports. Across a 100-day period we fashioned a document; TSA was with us the whole time. We believed that this document would be handed to TSA and they would publish it as written. Well, darn if they didn’t.
AB: Regarding GA airports, is there a concern?
Wood: There’s a concern anytime somebody can steal an airplane to do something malicious with it.
AB: Where are we at with the biometrics standard being developed by TSA?
Wood: It’s interesting. You get the impression that, with biometrics, TSA was waiting on the results of the TWIC [Transportation Worker Identification Card], which incorporates a biometric and is a federal program. But that hasn’t gone as rapidly as people expected, and that may be why TSA [held off]. Why duplicate the money if the TWIC held the answer?
Now, there is a question of interconnectivity with the TWIC to every airport in America and protocols to be written. The commercial airport sentiment is, we’ve got our systems in place and here you come with the TWIC and, no, we’re not going to go to the expense right now. We’ll just issue an airport ID card.
AB: Would you agree that the idea of a TWIC makes sense?
Wood: It makes sense for certain communities. For example, prior to 9/11, we had the Universal Access System for the airline pilot community to have a credential to bypass screening. Well, ‘bypass screening’ is no longer a phrase in the English language. What happened with that was, nobody would stand up and be responsible for the database to make sure it’s pristine. Airline management didn’t want to do it; airports didn’t want it.
Back to the TWIC, to some extent it’s a national ID card for the federal government. Who are the communities who need to be going through controlled access at airports? It’s not every government worker. Do we need to change every airport? In my view, it’s counterbalanced by the number of people who have this requirement to get into the airport regularly. I don’t think that community is so large that you have to change the airport system for these few. There’s not a need. How many people access that many different airports on a given day?
AB: What about the discussion of a need to screen every person every time they get onto the AOA?
Wood: That’s the intent of the ASTA of 2001: screen people who come in from all different angles. The act, which is law, says they have to do that screening; they [TSA] say they’re working on it.
The longer it takes TSA to address the perimeter, and airports are not in a rush to get them to address that perimeter, the longer the background check will continue to be used.
AB: Will we get to that point?
Wood: It would just take a god awful lot of money.
AB: Regarding a biometric standard, do you have a recommendation on what the standard should be?
Wood: Biometrics is a wonderful complement to existing airport access control systems. Adding a biometric can be a wonderful tool.
Directed by ATSA, TSA has implemented a 20-airport pilot program and various biometrics are being tested at those airports. While TSA will not release its findings, one could just use plain old logic and believe that, since J. Edgar Hoover invented the fingerprint as an identity device in 1933, it’s going to hold up pretty well.
The Intelligence Reform Act directed TSA to regulate that we have a biometric in access control, and it’s not going to be difficult for TSA to do that. I think the timing will be, they’ll wait until the 20-airport test is done.
AB: Do we know when the 20-airport test will be done?
Wood: It started out as a two-year program and we [as sub to Unisys] were signed on in November, 2003. So, theoretically, 2005; but, only 15 airports have been named to date, leaving five to go. You can’t possibly do them with a few months left.
AB: But, at the end of the day, you think it will be fingerprints?
Wood: Yes. Look around you at the technology; talk to Dell. They’ll sell you a biometric so only you have access to your computer; it sells for $129 and it’s a fingerprint pad. It’s so simple.
AB: Are you concerned about security and cargo?
Wood: Oh, sure. We’re all waiting to see what the final rule is. The whole airport community made strong comments, 600 of them, to the November, 2004 NPRM on air cargo security. We’ve had our say; I wish we’d had more. ]
AB: Any idea what the recommendations or regulations will be?
Wood: I’d only be speculating, and if I speculate my attention is drawn to things that aren’t good, namely making all cargo areas SIDAs. Well, SIDA is an airport animal, not an air carrier animal.