Middle Georgia Airport Upgrades Should Restore Flights

The Middle Georgia Regional Airport has passed its inspection for security improvements with flying colors, a federal spokesman said Wednesday.

"We're looking at the airport being in full compliance by next week," said Lauren Stover, the Transportation Security Administration's Eastern field director for public affairs.

The TSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Stover said the inspection was complete and is now in the review stage.

"You should see an increase in the airport's flight schedule" next week, she said.

The airport was downgraded in January to Class IV status because of inadequate security, and Atlantic Southeast Airlines cut daily flights from four to two. The downgrade meant airplanes with more than 60 seats were not permitted to fly in or out of the airport.

The TSA inspection of the airport had been taking place since Monday.

Federal inspectors check on equipment to ensure it meets the standard that "it performs the way it's designed," George Brown, Macon's director of aviation, said Wednesday.

"Locks have to be keyed to be sure they open and close, security cameras have to see what they're supposed to see, and cyber locks have to work with the automatic key functions," he said.

The security upgrade, which cost $60,000 and was installed this month, includes a series of updated monitoring systems and advanced security measures such as more fencing, combination and cyber locks, closed-circuit cameras and card readers.

The card readers take information from an embedded chip in an identity card to allow different levels of access, he said.

"You won't be in any place you're not supposed to be," Brown said.

The next step is the paperwork, he said. Once the TSA approves the new security system put in place, the airport will be a Class III "servicing" airport. Then, after officials in Washington approve the inspection report, the airport will be formally designated a Class III airport.

A Class III airport can service any size airplane that can use a 6,500-foot runway. The airport's two runways are 6,501 feet by 150 feet and 5,001 feet by 150 feet, according to a diagram furnished by the Federal Aviation Administration.