04/26/05 — Goldsboro-Wayne Airport meets security standards, officials say

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Goldsboro-Wayne Airport meets security standards, officials say

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 26, 2005 1:50 PM

Although the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport may not have some of the more visible security measures seen at larger airports, local officials say that it meets, and exceeds, federal security standards.

"We have additional lighting, cameras, locked gates and security tie-ins with the sheriff's department," said John Taylor, a pilot with Sig Aviation, the company that manages the airport. "We don't truly believe the General Aviation Airports will be threatened, but we're ready."

Security was the focus of a presentation at last week's meeting of the Airport Authority's safety committee.

Gary Harrison, the assistant federal security director for the Transportation Security Admin-istration, described security requirements for the different types of airports. The Goldsboro-Wayne and Mount Olive airports are categorized as General Aviation Airports.

Harrison, a former Naval aviator, was one of 500 security agents working for the Federal Aviation Administration when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Within a year, there were 60,000 agents at work.

Most of those are baggage screeners, Harrison said. The FAA, he said, is now primarily concerned with airplane safety, while the Transportation Security Administration is concerned with airport security.

The FAA looks at how the planes are working, or how long the pilot has been flying, Harrison explained. TSA officials look at how luggage is stored and how passengers are screened.

After the attacks, Congress approved a number of regulations governing airports, which the TSA enforces. But those regulations don't cover every airport in the country, Harrison explained. There are distinct regulations for commercial airlines, international airlines flying into the United States, chartered flights and cargo flights.

The regulations set out criteria that each airport is expected to meet, and each is expected to develop its own security plan to meet those requirements.

"For example, we say that you've got to control access to the airport," Harrison said. "And the airport writes its own plan on how it's going to do that."

Harrison said that people working at smaller airports just need to be taught what to look for and who to contact if they notice something unusual or suspicious.

He said that before the Sept. 11 attacks, that law enforcement agencies such as the FBI did not regularly communicate with airport managers. That has changed dramatically, he said, and now there is a joint task force among groups involved in airport security at all levels.

"Mostly, the General Aviation Airports need to be educated and know how to contact my office, or the FBI, in a timely manner," Harrison said. "And that's what education seminars like this one are about."

Harrison said that baggage screeners are the most "public faces" of the TSA, but that there are other security measures in place that most people are not aware of.

"We don't count on just the check points," he said. "We also have air marshals and reinforced cockpit doors."

But, he said, the biggest security defense the U.S. has is its people.

"I don't think people would sit quietly now through an attack," Harrison said. "Our most precious defense is our people saying they're not going to be passive."