Saturday, August 24, 2002

FAA vet set to lead security

By James Pilcher,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — After more than a decade working in aviation security, Terry Burgess thought he had seen a lot, and like most of his counterparts at the Federal Aviation Administration, he believed the agency had a handle on keeping the nation's airways safe.

[photo] Terry Burgess is the federal security director at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Then came Sept. 11.

        “That showed just how evil these people can be and the extremes they will go to,” said Mr. Burgess, who was in the FAA's central control room in Washington, D.C., during the hours after the attacks, keeping close tabs on hundreds of planes as they were brought out of the sky. “That's why we had to step up security, and since I felt I had a lot to offer the job, that's why I became a federal security director.

        “There are very few jobs as important as this in this day and age, and this is a chance to do something that matters to the entire country.”

        A 12-year FAA security veteran, Mr. Burgess is the new federal security director for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport — the official in charge of aviation security locally for the Transportation Security Administration, the agency created in the wake of Sept. 11.

        Mr. Burgess was appointed in mid-July and arrived in town two weeks ago. He said

        that he was confident that the TSA would meet congressionally-mandated deadlines for implementing a new federal screening work force and installing new machines to scan all bags for explosives.

        He also said the agency would have enough federal workers to handle all screening functions by Nov. 19, and would install the required machines by the end of the year, as required by the November 2001 law that also created the TSA.

    Title: Federal Security Director, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (works for the Transportation Security Administration)
    Age: 39
    Hometown: Cookeville, Tenn.
    Education: Bachelor's degree in aerospace from Middle Tennessee State University
    Responsibilities: Oversees all aspects of aviation security at the local airport, including deploying the new federal screener work force; installing bag screening machines and the staff to operate them; implementing and maintaining security standards locally; overseeing and managing the operation once it is operational.
    Experience: Seven years as security inspector in Federal Aviation Administration's Nashville, Tenn., field office; three years as team leader for security in Frankfurt, Germany; two years as FAA security liaison with Continental Airlines and Trans World Airlines.
    Salary: Not disclosed. The position has a salary range of $54,100-$122,300.
        Mr. Burgess said that he was up to the new job, especially because of his previous experience as an FAA security expert. He has been a domestic inspector, and worked with Cincinnati airport officials, and an international team leader in Frankfurt, Germany, where he would conduct security inspections on any commercial carrier headed for U.S. airspace.

        Most recently, he served as the FAA's security liaison with Continental Airlines and TWA until American Airlines bought that carrier. He would not disclose his salary, but the position has a pay range of $54,100-$122,300 annually.

Perfect fit

        So far, Mr. Burgess has received rave reviews from airport officials.

        “He makes decisions very quickly, and couple that with the fact that he knows what he's doing, and he's been a breeze to work with,” said the airport's deputy director of operations Chad Everett, who oversees security for the facility.

        David Charney, acting director of the federal security director program for the TSA, said Mr. Burgess got the job because of his experience.

        “In the case of Terry Burgess and the Cincinnati airport, it was a perfect fit,” said Mr. Charney, who oversees the hiring of the nation's security directors, having filled 137 of the 158 positions nationally. “We are always looking for local knowledge, and Terry not only brings that, but he's worked internationally, so he has other ideas.”

Challenging road

        Cincinnati screeners had the highest rate of failure among major U.S. airports during a round of undercover tests nationwide in June, with local workers failing to find fake weapons seven out of 12 times. Those local screeners are still employed by a private company, St. Louis-based Huntleigh USA, although the government has oversight of the function.

        “Failures of any kind are unacceptable, and that is the attitude that I hope to instill,” said Mr. Burgess. “Still, it's unfair that Cincinnati had to take the bad rap for one slice of testing.”

        Mr. Burgess' challenges don't stop there. As of Friday, the TSA had only hired 231of the 320 or so passenger screeners it intended to hire locally, having received more than 4,400 applications for local screening jobs. The agency had deployed federal workers to 37 of the nation's 429 commercial airports.

        “I'm not going to say that this will be easy, and I fully expect 16-hour days as this progresses,” said Mr. Burgess.


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