Security coordinatorAirports will soon be increasing security measures from Federal Aviation Administration and FBI guidelines, predicts Joe Guyton, who is in charge of gate security personnel at Honolulu Airport.
Any procedures can be
bypassed, Honolulu chief says
By Anthony Sommer
Guyton, the security coordinator for the Airline Committee of Hawaii, said the plans for increased airport security already are written; it's simply a matter of the FAA deciding whether to implement them.
"It's always a difficult decision in an open society," he noted.
At every airport across the country the airport owner -- in the case of Hawaii, all airports are state-owned -- is responsible for facility security while the airlines are responsible for screening passengers before they board their aircraft.
Guyton's position at Honolulu Airport is unique. Honolulu is the only airport at which all airlines are represented by a consortium with a single security director. At all others, including the neighbor islands, each airline must contract for its own security personnel to operate X-ray machines and magnetometers.
"I deal directly with the FAA every day," Guyton said. "And the security personnel all work for me."
Honolulu is one of only 20 airports in the United States that is assigned a resident FAA security supervisor for the airlines, Guyton said. There is also a separate security supervisor for noncommercial aircraft.
Guyton said it is too early to do anything but speculate on how terrorists managed to bypass security and get aboard the four airliners that were hijacked yesterday. But he noted any security system can be thwarted.
Many airline security procedures are secret. For example, the controversial "Air Marshal" program that placed armed plainclothes guards aboard airliners following a large number of hijackings in the early 1980s, still exists. "But it is one of the most secret operations anywhere in the government," Guyton said.
But secrets, he said, can be found out.
"It appears these people were both professional and dedicated," Guyton said. "They probably made numerous tests of the system over a long period of time to find out what the perimeters are.
"It's possible they attempted to board a much larger number of aircraft and were only able to get aboard the four," he said.
"I was stunned that it happened, but I was not shocked that it could happen," Guyton said.
Airport security workers in Hawaii are especially mindful of the possibility of terrorists passing through Honolulu, going either east or west. In the past year alone, there were revolutions in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia, all destinations served directly or indirectly by airlines that fly in and out of Honolulu Airport.
Foreign airlines that fly into Hawaii are required to mirror U.S. security standards for flights arriving anywhere else in the United States, he said.
International Total Service Inc. provides the security personnel who operate the magnetometers and X-ray machines at Honolulu Airport.
Guyton rates them as much better than the national average.
"Nationally, the turnover in airport security personnel is 400 percent per annum," he said. "In Honolulu, it's 30 percent to 40 percent."
"In addition ITS hires a very large number of military personnel who want a second income," he added. "And the local employees have a very strong work ethic."
Although the job pays not much more than minimum wage, the employees are highly trained and tested repeatedly every day.
"The FAA not only sends its own employees through the gates many times a day, it recruits federal employees who are just passing through and not known to any of the security personnel to try to breach security," Guyton said.