Inside the Fence

Inside the Fence

By John Infanger

September 2002

In airport management, remaining anonymous can reap a significant benefit: job security.
Too bad. In the airport environment of today, it is the people working at the airports who have much to say about what is and is not being done to make flying safer. While one group of airport managers has become quite visible by challenging Congress to reconsider its 2002 screening deadlines, most airport officials remain guarded when it comes to challenging the federal government and the Transportation Security Administration.
For this issue’s cover story, we had the opportunity to talk with a number of airport officials about the TSA, security, and challenges at their respective airports. Interestingly, the majority seem to remain hopeful that deadlines will be met and the system will continue to operate on January 1.
Consider, however, a couple of the not-for-attribution comments ...
"You want to be a hero? You want to propose a really unique idea?
"Let’s get rid of the TSA; let’s build little border crossing stations at airports where you come through. Your baggage, you, everything gets inspected, screened. Your car is searched. Then, we have to do little at the airport. Once you’re through there, you’re essentially sterile."
And ...
"Rather than TSA doing all this checkpoint security, why not have the National Guard do it permanently?
"They could reformat guard duty weekends, and do them during the week. If it’s a permanent mission of the guard, you can rotate people in and out of airports during their two week summer camps and guard drills. They’d be performing an actual mission rather than training to perform a mission that they may or may not be called up for.
"Some of the financial resources that are already programmed could be utilized to perform an actual mission that they performed for nine months superbly. And, we’re not creating a whole new federal agency with the cost that TSA is talking about. The TSA can still do its bag oversight or whatever they’ve got to do, but instead of hiring all of these federal law enforcement officers, let us do it locally or bring the Guard back."
* * *
Other situations bear close watching as the industry prepares for a return to yesterday’s problem, capacity. FAA appears to be changing course significantly on peak-hour pricing at congested commercial airports — most notably Boston Logan, the site of previous battles. Airports tend to view the policy as an ability to use market forces to regulate congestion. ATA, AOPA, and others object and say the feds should focus on easing congestion by focusing on infrastructure and technology.
With Vanguard bankrupt and grounded, U.S. Airways flying under a bankruptcy cloud, and American Airlines saying it will totally rethink its business, the new questions are What capacity? and Where?
Meanwhile, in Elk Grove Village, IL, city officials are trying a new tactic in their efforts to stop the proposed massive reconstruction of neighboring O’Hare International Airport. They are seeking to get some $120 million from the airport if the expansion is approved to make up for lost revenues on some 300 acres that O’Hare would require.
Seems like just one more reason why a third commercial airport is the answer for Chicago and the system.
Thanks for reading.

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