Friday, October 26, 2001

Small airports batten down

Security enhancements include fencing, increasing vigilance

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        While major airports quickly beefed up security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, smaller airports have also begun increasing their safeguards and paying more attention to activity on their fields.

        “We're putting together an upgraded security plan,” said Dan Dickten, manager at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport. “We're trying to be proactive. We've gone out and made some assessments as to where the soft spots are.”

        Other Tristate airports, from Blue Ash to Fairfield, are also adding security measures. And Lunken has doubled a security upgrade that was in the works before Sept. 11. It now will spend more than $100,000 for security enhancements.

        The additions will primarily focus on new fencing and gates around the facility, Mr. Dickten said. They could be under way by the end of the year.

        “We just want to make sure we keep the flying and the surrounding communities safe and secure,” he said. “There still will be access to the apron by those who have a need to be there.”

        Though the airport currently does not have to contend with stronger security requirements because there is no regularly scheduled service there, officials at smaller fields are anticipating new Federal Aviation Administration regulations in light of the attacks. The FAA twice temporarily grounded crop-dusting planes around the nation because of indications that terrorists considered using them.

        “We are required to ... limit access onto the movement (part) of the airport,” Mr. Dickten said. “We do have a good fence around the facility. We're working ahead of the game.”

        New FAA requirements could eventually include higher security fences, controlled security identification areas and screenings of those entering the airport, Mr. Dickten said.

        At the same time, airport officials want to make sure new security measures don't ruin the atmosphere of the historic airfield. The 1,000-acre Lunken has an extensive play field and is a popular draw for aircraft buffs and non-fliers.

        At Blue Ash Airport, officials are relying on increased patrols by hired security and local police to help keep that airfield secure. The Blue Ash field is also owned by Cincinnati.

        “We are also looking at making security improvements over there,” Mr. Dickten said. “There needs to be additional gates and fencing improvements.”

        Officials at Butler County Regional Airport in Fairfield are planning new fencing around that facility.

        “We're just about to sign some paperwork for a ($150,000) grant from the FAA for fencing around the airport,” said Ron Davis, airport administrator. “It'll get a little more than three-fourths of it. It'll get the areas that we really have major concerns with.”

        Butler airport officials have also contacted local police to step up patrols and are keeping a closer eye out for suspicious activities.

        “The changes that we're making to make it more secure, I think everybody was expecting that,” Mr. Davis said. “Since the event (Sept. 11), it's just solidified that thought.”

        Brian Carr, owner/manager of the Warren County Airport, said his employees are paying closer attention to action at the airport in Turtlecreek Township, and are keeping more detailed records of those using the field.

        Officials at the Clermont County Airport would not comment on security procedures there, citing security reasons.

        Ron Davis, manager of Butler County Regional Airport in Fairfield, stands near new fencing near the airport's new terminal, which is under construction.


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