Friday, December 03, 1999

Airport vigilant for lapses in security




BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — It would not be impossible for somebody to breach security and make his way onto the runway at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, a top airport official admits. But the airport also has layers of security and conducts its own tests to keep planes and airport property as safe as possible.

        “It could happen,” said Ted Bushelman, director of communications for the Kenton County Airport Board. “But the chances are remote. We hope what we have in place is working, and we stay on top of our systems to make sure they are working.”

        A Department of Transportation (DOT) report released this week found that the nation's airports remain vulnerable to intruders.

        At several major airports, investigators with the DOT's Inspector General's office penetrated security using a variety of techniques and even managed to board a number of U.S. and foreign aircraft.

        The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport was not involved in the study.

        The Federal Aviation Administration “has been slow to take actions necessary to strengthen access-control requirements and adequately oversee the implementation of existing controls,” the IG's office said.

        In a series of tests earlier this year investigators slipped through security by “piggybacking” or following employees through doors. They also walked unchallenged through concourse doors, gates, jetbridges and cargo facilities. Some drove through unmanned vehicle gates or rode unguarded elevators, the investigators said.

        “In some instances, we were seated and ready for departure at the time we concluded our tests,” the IG said.

        In March, when early results from the IG investigation showed security holes, the FAA began testing at 79 of the nation's largest airports and opened nearly 400 investigations into airport weaknesses.

        “These tests showed airports had fixed the problems and that industry, once focused, was capable of providing high levels of compliance with regulations,” the FAA said in a statement.

        The FAA said it would seek to improve security by increasing the number of surprise inspections, and promised to work with airlines and airports to better monitor alarmed doors. The agency also said it had plans for improving the security training of airport employees.

        Mr. Bushelman said most of the airport's security measures are confidential. But he did discuss a routine test the airport uses that is designed to restrict access to the runways.

        All employees must wear an ID badge to get on the runway or into other secure areas.

        “We send employees out there without their badges and see if they are stopped by other employees,” Mr. Bushelman said. “Any employee that stops somebody without a badge during one of our tests gets two free tickets to a movie at Showcase Cinemas.

        “Every time we try this test the person gets stopped pretty quickly,” he said.

        The airlines are responsible for security in areas where passengers enter terminals and board planes. The airport oversees security for the runway, the parking garages, parts of the terminal and other areas of the airport.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

       



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