Cape's airport joins 23 others selected by TSA

Thursday, June 20, 2002

SECURITY TESTINGBy Heidi Hall

and Jeremy Joffray ~ Southeast Missourian

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport is a launching point for a new program to place federal baggage screeners in every U.S. airport, and a team from the Transportation Security Administration will arrive Sunday to start the process.

Airport manager Bruce Loy said TSA agents will review the baggage screening area, study passengers and collect countless other pieces of information in an effort to improve security. Federal baggage screeners are to be in place by Nov. 19 and every piece of luggage must be screened for bombs and weapons by the end of the year.

There wasn't any particular reason for picking Cape Girardeau as one of 23 airports involved in the launch, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said Wednesday. The agency merely selected locations from across the country, and survey teams will be at 90 additional airports by the end of the first week in July.

Most on the initial list are small or midsized and include airports in Missoula, Mont., and Texarkana, Texas.

Loy said he's eager to begin the process. "Maybe we'll finally get some explanation on how this will actually work," he said of new federal regulations involving air travel.

The airport could see some changes in the terminal, he said, and passengers no doubt will notice a difference in the check-in process once every bag is being screened. As it stands, carry on luggage is examined piece by piece, but checked bags are searched randomly. Employees of American Connection, which serves the area with commuter flights to St. Louis, do the work.

An average of 27 people per day fly into and out of Cape Girardeau, Loy said.

Passengers at the airport Wednesday night said they're bracing themselves for longer lines as the TSA enacts safety regulations here.

"It will probably just slow down the check-in process," said Paula Johnston of Jackson, Mo.

She said she doesn't think the new measures will make her feel any safer in a small airport such as Cape Girardeau's.

"Maybe in a larger city I'd feel safer, but not in Cape Girardeau," Johnston said.

For others, it will make a difference.

"The more eyes and hands and ears you have out there is OK with me," said Keith Foster of Salisbury, Md. "It will take time, of course, but if that's what they have to do, then that's what they have to do."

The Transportation Security Administration was created in November when President George W. Bush signed legislation aimed at protecting Americans when they travel. It is a division of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.

hhall@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 226

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: