Awaiting Clear Guidance
At NAC, turning a security miracle is the topic, but direction is unclear
By John F. Infanger
Security and the Olympics - a Potential Model
Salt Lake City International Airport director Tim Campbell had already had a target of February 1st for the 100 percent screening of baggage in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The target is now January 19, as with all Part 107 airports. Driven by the Secret Service, the goal led SLC to be a step ahead of the crisis situation today.
The Olympics open on February 8, and Campbell, speaking at the AAAE National Airports Conference, expects to have nine more CTX machines up and running by then. Delta and United already had CTX machines, which the carriers funded. He relates that the heavy, bulky machines will now dominate his lobby’s landscape, a common challenge facing operators of older designed terminals.
However, they will not be the primary cog in the scanning loop because the eleven CTX machines alone would not be enough. Explosives trace devices (ETDs), says Campbell, will be relied upon for pre-CTX screening. Much less expensive ($45,000 apiece), they will be placed at the end of passenger ticket lines, 68 units in all. A "hit" on a bag sends it to the CTX. ETDs will be placed at curbside check-in, says Campbell. "We’ve been told that the ETDs can operate to about 20 degrees F," he says, making temperature a question.
If the SLC system proves effective, says Campbell, it could serve as a starting point for other airports to screen and facilitate passengers and baggage.
Campbell does caution that one of the issues related to the use of ETDs is whether or not FAA will require "swathing" inside a bag, not just outside. If so, he says, the system devised at SLC for the Olympics may not be applicable.
SLC’s greatest challenge will come the day after the closing ceremonies, says Campbell, when near-100 percent airline occupancy is expected. SLC accommodates some 38,000 daily departure seats.
Regarding the challenge facing the U.S. system of airports, Campbell is concerned "we may be underestimating" the economic impact of security costs and requirements on the aviation system as a whole and its subsequent economic recovery."
TUCSON — In December, a full slate of delegates was on hand for the delayed F. Russell Hoyt National Airports Conference, looking for direction and clarification — and funding. Much of that, however, was left pending with the new Under Secretary of Transportation for Security not in place, wary regulators, and a financially hesitant Congress. Yet, a 60-day deadline loomed; and, managers shared what they’d learned since 9/11.
Originally planned for September, the NAC attracted some 300 attendees, more than had registered for the previous event. During the meeting, the new Under Secretary of Transportation for Security nominee had yet to be named, and that nomination was identified as central to airports getting clearer guidance on how to handle the new security threat, and how to pay for it.
What also was made clear was that the up to $1.5 billion authorized in the historic security legislation was not yet appropriated, and Congress appeared to be tightening its relief wallet. (According to AAAE, new Airport Improvement Program provisions allow for 100 percent of all security-related costs to be eligible for reimbursement.)
"We have a fishing license to go get the money," explains Spencer Dickerson, vice president for the American Association of Airport Executives, host of the NAC. In particular, the immediate money that airports are fishing for is reimbursement for expenses related to security since 9/11. Without it, many airport budgets will be devastated, he says.
Dickerson terms the task as monumental now before the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which will include security operations formerly under FAA.
Other than funding, top challenges facing airports, according to Dickerson, are the 60-day deadline for 100 percent baggage reconciliation and the transition of screeners from the private sector to federal control. Also surging to the forefront is the debate about biometrics, targeted for study under the new legislation, and national ID cards — all aimed at the central issue of access control.
Then, there is the issue of the customer experience. "One of the goals here is that the security experience needs to be consistent from airport to airport," says Dickerson.
Meanwhile, luncheon keynote Kenneth Mead, the DOT Inspector General, cautioned that there were still an "alarming" number of lapses in security at U.S. airports. Regarding the TSA, Mead says it in effect removes FAA’s authority on security matters and is wider reaching, being a multimodal agency. The TSA will also include the federal marshall program, he says, and it has four imperatives:
1) Hiring a qualified workforce. One key: motivating current screeners, many of whom won’t have jobs. Also, who’s going to train 28,000 new security screeners?
2) Implementing an effective background check system. We should use this period to come up with standardization — e.g., smart cards — he says.
3) Screening all checked baggage. FAA estimates 2,100 CTX machines will need to be installed at U.S. airports. In time, the explosives detection equipment needs to be integrated into the baggage system and moved away from lobbies and concourses, says Mead.
4) Financing it all. The truth is, nobody is going to know the full cost, he says, pointing out that one recent study of 22 airports reveals that they estimate spending some $790 million to implement the new security.
Mead, recognizing that airports are in what he calls a tough spot that needs more attention, says the IG will conduct a study within the next year to help determine the full impact.
FAA, AIP, and GA
FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Woodie Woodward, meanwhile, says the agency is busy working to get out new guidelines related to AIP eligibility. She adds that she anticipates that security grants will take up a large share of AIP discretionary monies.
Regarding general aviation, Bill Barkhauer, director of Morristown (NJ) Municipal Airport, is heading up the newly formed AAAE General Aviation Airports Security Task Force. Although most of the initial focus on security has been on Part 107 airports, "we know it’s coming," says Barkhauer about new security guidelines for general aviation facilities. Exactly what is unclear, he says, and the task force is charged with helping formulate recommendations, identifying measures that might be appropriate and others that might be too onerous. Barkhauer says that it is not clear if the security legislation gives FAA authority to fund general aviation security initiatives via AIP.