BWI selected for lengthy test of security plans

October 23, 1990|By Doug Birch

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to conduct a $9.3 million test next year of new security equipment and strategies at Baltimore-Washington International Airport for possible use throughout the country, state and federal officials said yesterday.

The FAA project will include a test of a new, airportwide approach to security that screens and monitors all visitors and employees, rather than relying on individual airlines to focus on selected areas.

"We're looking for all possible holes in the [current] system," said Fred Ferrar, a spokesman at the FAA headquarters in Washington. He said the project, reported in yesterday's USA Today, would probably begin next summer and last until the end of 1991.

Nicholas J. Schaus, deputy administrator of the Maryland Aviation Administration, cautioned that so far the state has talked about testing the airportwide security approach in and around only two piers, used by domestic carriers that carry relatively light traffic.

Under current plans, he said, international airlines would not be part of the test program. Nor would USAir, which uses BWI as a regional hub.

Aviation officials do not expect any of the 10 million passengers who use BWI each year to be delayed unnecessarily by experimental security systems. BWI, which is protected by the Maryland State Police, has "always done very well" in security inspections, he added.

"Nothing has been agreed to yet," Mr. Schaus said. "We're still in the design [stage] and looking at the impacts of what these devices would be on the flow of passengers through the terminal."

In those areas of the terminal used in the test, Mr. Schaus confirmed, the FAA is discussing screening employees as well as passengers by X-ray metal detectors; installing closed-circuit television, now used to monitor terminals, on runways and in hangars; and installing new state-of-the-art sensors to detect intruders in secure areas.

Remote-controlled revolving doors to plane ramps may also be installed, to help prevent hijackers or intruders from bolting into parked planes.

Mr. Ferrar said Sandia National Laboratories of Albuquerque, N.M., which is conducting the test under contract with the FAA, will also run comparative tests of several different machines designed to do the same thing -- such as screen packages and luggage.

Mr. Ferrar said BWI was chosen for the security test "probably because it's typical of a lot of airports."

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