Sunday, September 16, 2001

Flights pick up, but not fast pace

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Airport Police Officer Eyad Abusway directs a large vehicle to turn away Saturday from the Terminal 3 lot, which is limited to smaller cars.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        HEBRON — More travelers stranded by the shutdown of the nation's air travel found their way home Saturday.

        Airlines gradually added more flights as the day progressed, including Delta Air Lines, the main tenant of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        But operations were still sluggish. The reasons: tight security and the continued logistical problems of getting airplanes and crews to the right places.

        Delta operated about 60 percent of its schedule systemwide, although there were several Boeing 737s sitting idle at the local airport.

        At Cincinnati, only about 40 percent to 60 percent of the usual 550 flights departed on Saturday, airport spokesman Joe Feiertag told the Associated Press.

        Delta-owned regional carrier Comair, which normally operates the most flights in Cincinnati, had flown about 62 percent of its routes through 3 p.m. Officials hoped to get up to 80 percent by day's end.

        “We're continuing to make progress,” Delta spokeswoman Kim King said. “We're doing what we can, but we're also working with the airport and the government.”

        Delta has limited the travel of unaccompanied minors to direct flights only, and will not take those 11 and under for flights that include a connection.

        Delta and airport officials appeared to go even further in inspecting baggage than they did when flights resumed late Thursday.

    The Tristate's other airports opened for limited flights Friday and Saturday, with a national ban on private or general aviation partially lifted.
    Flights not categorized as commercial passenger, cargo or charter flights were banned until Friday afternoon. Still, private flights must fly under what are called instrument flying rules, meaning pilots must be instrument rated, file a flight plan and remain under the supervision of air traffic controllers.
    Blue Ash Airport, owned by the city of Cincinnati, saw some limited flights Saturday. Lunken Airport also saw some business flights and private leisure flights both depart and arrive, Lunken general manager Dan Dickten said Saturday.
    Flights operating out of other smaller airports in Hamilton, Oxford, Middletown and Batavia also could fly, but only under the continued restrictions. Mr. Dickten said that a renewal of all private flying might not come until the middle of the week.
    “These security restrictions might change the whole way these smaller facilities operate,” said Cincinnati transportation director John Deatrick, who oversees Lunken and Blue Ash airports. Theyaverage about 350 and 100 flights a day, respectively. “We might have to look at newer technology so smaller planes can be brought in more succinctly.”
    The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there are 200,000 private operators in the country.
        “They're checking them at random, and my colleagues got searched,” said Allene Dodge, who works for a biotech firm in San Francisco. She was in Cincinnati after driving from Baltimore.

        “We thought we were going to have to drive all the way across the country, but ... our travel agent told us to try stopping here and getting a flight because it was a hub,” said Ms. Dodge. She was to fly home Saturday afternoon.

        Delta customer service officials would not comment on the random bag searches. Ms. King said that the airline was not requiring them systemwide. Airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said the new procedure was not ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration or local police.

        The local searches were done on both carry-on and checked luggage apparently at random by ticket agents wearing rubber gloves.

        “People are taking whatever steps they need to take when it comes to security,” Comair spokesman Nick Miller said. “... But we're not going to be able to explain every where and why for. We hope people are patient with that.”

        Robert Bass of Montgomery, along with his wife and niece, got home Saturday after being stranded in Brazil.

        “As we landed in Atlanta from Sao Paulo, a spontaneous roar and cheer went up. Everyone is just happy to be back on American soil,” he said.

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