"We're playing a lot of what-if games," says director of aviation Bill Sherry at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, "so that at least we're better prepared for when TSA does start promulgating some of these specifications and specifics." Sherry has his planners, architects, and engineers looking at all the ramifications of installing Explosive Detection Systems (EDS) for baggage screening at his airport. "For example," he says, "when you look at the deployment of EDS it impacts electrical loads, how do we run the electrical runs. It's going to have an impact on the HVAC system; an impact on relocating various operational personnel; it'll obviously have a load impact as these machines are quite heavy - what areas of the terminal can support that kind of equipment."
While Sherry prepares for contingencies, directors like Anderson are almost forced to make adjustments to ongoing projects based on assumptions about what the TSA will do. Boise Airport is in the middle of what he says is the largest public infrastructure project in the history of the state. At a cost of an additional four percent, Anderson has directed that features related to security be built into the construction of a new terminal building.
"You just make some assumptions about the way things are going to be," Anderson says. "...We're just trying to make a best guess-timate of how it's going to be and go from there. If we wait for the government to tell us, it'll be too late."
GA A PLEASANT SURPRISE
While airline business travel returns, there appears to be an even bigger boom in business aviation which, in turn, translates into a boost in jet fuel sales.
Locations as far flung as San Diego, CA; McAllen, TX; Burlington, NC; Naples, FL; and Bangor, ME report a significant jump in charter, corporate, fractional jet, and even piston aircraft business since September.
Derald Lary at McAllen Miller International explains, "General aviation came back very quickly for us," he says. "In fact, it's up. Since that time (9/11) we have gone to a far greater percentage of pure jet traffic for the GA side than the piston traffic. I think there are a lot of businessmen that are buying airplanes now. The time factor of going from airport to airport with reduced frequencies, less available seats at the last minute, and the inconvenience of screening and airports that shut down because of evacuations, flights being canceled. I think the equation has changed."
Means, airports director for Montgomery and Brown fields in San
Diego, says, "At Montgomery Field I'm seeing an increase in
my jet fuel sales. That is an indication that we are doing more
charter. I think that the fractional ownership is growing in popularity.
I am having more high-end corporate users operate out of the airport
and I have a huge demand for high-end corporate hangar space."
ALTERNATIVES, DELAYS, AND RESTRAINTS
Richard Vacar, director of Houston Airport System, is not assuming anything. Houston-Bush Intercon-tinental Airport is in the midst of a vast runway and terminals construction project and Vacar says he is not building anything speculative into the new construction. "I'm confident that the things we're designing into the buildings and our airside work will be able to address (anything) from a security standpoint. I have avoided...getting myself involved in speculative spending based on what I think they (TSA) want me to do."
However, Vacar is looking at alternative technologies such as the NASA-initiated neutron beam technology, which is designed to detect explosive materials in such things as 18-wheelers and shipped cargo containers. Initial reports are that it has a far less false-positive rate than the current technology. Vacar thinks that if he installed the technology at each of the two entrances to the Intercontinental complex he could scan every vehicle entering and preclude the need for baggage screening inside the terminal.
Explains Vacar, "I got interested because taking some of those old buildings and making them do this thing (security) is just so overwhelming and expensive. Not every airport can do what we can do because of how we're situated geographically, but it may be an alternative way to do some of this stuff and, for sure, it's a good approach to cargo."
Executives such as Tim Callister at Minneapolis/St. Paul, Bonnie Allin at Tucson, and Elaine Roberts at Columbus (OH) have had to halt, delay, or cut the budget on construction projects due to a variety of reason connected to 9/11, the downturn in the aviation economy specifically, and the economy generally.
At times, one security checkpoint at D/FW Airport may become choked with passengers even as checkpoints a short walk away stand completely empty.