Having fully integrated baggage screening reflects aggressive posture
By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
JACKSONVILLE, FL – On October 1, 2001, the Jacksonville Airport Authority performed its first act: opening for business. As a second act, it directed airport staff to come up with a comprehensive security plan in light of the 9/11 attacks. Central to that plan was an in-line, fully integrated baggage screening system, before the Transportation Security Administration was even created. The move is indicative of the aggressive approach to service and development that have kept the airport apace with local economic growth.
While airports across North America struggle with movibing passengers around and past ETDs and CTX machines to ensure secure baggage, Jacksonville International Airport acts much like an airport pre-9/11 in terms of passenger movement.
It did not happen by accident. The airport solicited to become part of the TSA pilot program for baggage screening almost as soon as the new agency was formed, pushed to get its federal security director (FSD) in place quickly, and spent as much as $18 million of its own money to get to this point.
It put a terminal and concessions expansion program on hold, while also securing its three general aviation airports it oversees. A new administration building, originally needed to accommodate terminal expansion, was completed and a lease consumated with the General Services Adminis-tration to house TSA personnel. Meanwhile, space was created for the complex conveyor-driven, in-line screening system, the center of which is five Invision CTX explosives detection scanners.
The entire plan and subsequent execution are very indicative of the philosophy of the authority and airport staff, according to John C. Clark III, A.A.E., executive director, who had previously focused heavily on how to keep the airport in step with the expanding Jacksonville economic base and on air service development.
Explains Clark, "From a policy standpoint, we believed it was necessary to put in this new foundation of security. Yes, we had to give up some cash to do that; but if you have people in this community who believe the airport environment is not safe, or that we’re not taking the appropriate action, we’re going to lose the revenue because our market base is going to go away.
"If we don’t do it, we’re not going to be able to effectively do our business. Our business is to make sure the people in this community have access to the national transportation system. And we are 60 percent-plus business travel at this airport, so efficiency and speed are important to our business."
Paul Hackenberry, the federal security director who came here in July, 2002, had been working at the federal law enforcement training center in Georgia, commuting from his residence in Jacksonville. He had previously spent 28 years in the Secret Service, including Presidential detail. He left his Georgia position on a Saturday, he relates, and started the next day at Jacksonville International.
Recalls Hackenberry, "I’m the fortunate recipient of a lot of forward thinking, progressive thinking, before I walked in the door.
"The pilot [program] status was a reflection of the investment officials here were willing to make. We [TSA] were the benefactor; we just came in and integrated our CTX machines into their system."
The City of Jacksonville, located in Northeast Florida not far from the Georgia border, had been in the midst of major economic expansion throughout the 1990s. A half-cent sales tax drives infrastructure development, and the city is home to the PGA and several major corporations. It will host the Superbowl in 2005.
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