Boeing Frontiers
November 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 07 
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools

Progress is steady in meeting goals for HOMELAND Security

A Boeing-Siemens team works feverishly to meet a looming aviation industry deadline


Bob BlunkBob Blunk calmly opened the door to the conference room and walked into a sea of uncertainty. The room was packed, standing room only. Airline representatives, airport officials, law enforcement officers and newly-appointed government aviation security specialists were there with questions about new airport security procedures.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Blunk knew nothing about aviation or airport security. Now he is the new Federal Security Director for Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, an assignment that falls under the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration. The Department of Transportation formally houses the TSA. This fledgling organization, which Congress created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, is responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.

That’s especially important in the United States, considering that nearly 700 million air travelers and nearly 1 billion pieces of checked luggage pass through U.S. airports every year.

And U.S. airspace is international in scope. Foreign airports, rather than lines on a map, define the United States’ national borders. They are now the point of entry and exit into the United States.

The TSA has designated federal security directors like Blunk and support staff to oversee the daily security operations and the installation of additional baggage explosive detection systems and explosives trace detection systems for the 100-percent baggage-screening deadline of the end of the year.

The Bush administration and the U.S. Congress have rallied behind the deadline as a way to instill confidence in aviation safety among the traveling public and improve the economy as a result.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta predicted that by the beginning of 2003, airports will screen 100 percent of all bags, and passengers will make it through security checkpoints in only 10 minutes.

Blunk and other members of the TSA have been working feverishly, alongside Boeing and Siemens Corp., to meet a Dec. 31 goal to install and operate 1,100 EDS and up to 6,000 ETD machines in all 438 commercial U.S. airports. The Boeing-Siemens team won the contract this summer.

The Explosive Detection System/Explosive Trace Detection program will go a long way to support that goal.

The Boeing-Siemens technological team hit the ground running from day one and worked with the TSA and airport and airline officials to determine where airports will install the new equipment and the number of machines required at each airport terminal.

They first perform extensive modeling and simulation tests that look at passenger movement, terminal space, and baggage-flow rates. Armed with this information, the team then determines the type and number of equipment and staff it will need to deploy the machines.

It also decides on the usage rates and various screening configurations and makes policy decisions.

Lockheed Martin is working on several other aspects of airport security, including passenger-screening checkpoint improvements and the training of the additional checkpoint-screening workforce.

Blunk’s job is formidable. Not only is he the liaison between the airlines and skeptical airport officials, but he also works with the contractors installing the new screening equipment and hiring the additional screening workforce.

“This isn’t just a technical process,” Blunk said, “It’s a collaboration among all stakeholders.”

During the meeting, representatives from various airlines (including United, Southwest, America West, and SAS) voiced concerns over the new security procedures. Longer waits in security lines mean delayed flights and a potential drop in passenger revenue. The airlines also want additional staffing at certain security checkpoints during peak flight departure times to reduce the time passengers have to wait in line.

Blunk had to answer some tough questions. He reassured his audience that his team is working to stabilize a new screening workforce while creating teams of screeners deployable at a moment’s notice across the airport to handle passenger load factors and airline schedules.

“We need your support,” Blunk told the stakeholders at the meeting. “We can’t do this without you.”

To Blunk, overseeing the safety of hundreds of thousands of people passing through Sea-Tac Airport is all in a day’s work. It starts all over the next day, except when a security breach demands his attention, such as the recent event in Concourse B when officials had to evacuate and rescreen approximately 3,000 people. Why? The culprit in question ducked from Security after setting off the security alarms.

At a meeting of representatives of the Boeing-Siemens team and the Lockheed team, Sky Landis from TSA discussed the schedule, how many more screeners to bring on board and how to deal with a difficult airport configuration.

With only 16 feet separating the main terminal from the airline ticket counter to the waiting area, there isn’t much space available for sports utility vehicle–sized EDS machines.

The Dec. 31 deadline looms large, but the Boeing-Siemens team, working with the TSA, has made steady progress.

“Our goal is to stay out of the passengers’ way,” Blunk explained, “We’re here to promote a healthy airline economy, which in turn is important for our sense of freedom and security. Despite the deadline, work on the project is progressing at a rapid pace. The traveling public can be assured that our commercial aviation system is secure.”

To the traveling public, the intense, behind-the-scenes activity of aviation security is just part of the changing landscape of air travel. But to airport officials and airlines, it’s anything but business as usual. It’s a new business model altogether.


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