Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Airport security up in the air

New chief: No agenda set for converting, adding screeners

By James Pilcher, jpilcher@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — The new federal security chief for the local airport said Monday that there still was no set timetable for converting to a federalized screener work force.

        Terry Burgess, who was appointed as the federal security director for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport July 19, also said no decisions had been reached on how many bomb screening machines the facility would receive or where they would go.

        “I still have to build up my staff and hire my senior managers,” said Mr. Burgess, a former security official with the Federal Aviation Administration and Continental Airlines. “We're still going through concept designs and haven't come up with any final figures or dates. But we will meet the deadline.”

        The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency created to handle aviation security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has until Nov. 19 to federalize all screeners and until Dec. 31 to electronically screen all luggage for bombs.

        Locally, the TSA plans to hire abut 320 passenger screeners, although Mr. Burgess said that figure might grow since federal workers will be taking over screening functions at the gate.

        As of July 15, the TSA had received more than 4,400 applications, but had only hired 159 for local screening positions. Mr. Burgess had no updated numbers on hiring. He also said no figures had been set for the number of workers that would be needed.

        In other news, facility officials said that there would be another partial shutdown of a runway beginning Sept. 8.

        The airport's westernmost east/west runway is going to be shortened to 6,400 feet for 10 days to allow for the repair and renovation of a taxiway.

        Airport government affairs manager Barb Schempf said that the closure shouldn't affect most flights, but that larger jets will not be able to use it.

        And if the wind is blowing in certain directions, that could force the larger, noisier planes onto the eastern north/south strip, which is usually not used for large jets at night.

        Ms. Schempf also said that a closure of the east-west runway for taxiway work in July and early August brought a spate of complaint calls.



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