FAA continues to tighten

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

The Federal Aviation Administration released further security-enhancement regulations Monday aimed at keeping domestic airports safe.

In addition to previous restrictions since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the FAA is now requiring airports to limit passengers to one carry-on bag and one personal bag – a purse or briefcase – while flying. Also, only ticketed passengers are allowed past security checkpoints, said Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokeswoman Amy Von Walter.

Curbside check-in, which was temporarily eliminated, was reinstated nationwide at the end of September, Von Walter said.

MSP has also begun including bomb-sniffing canines from Bloomington and St. Paul police departments in security procedures. The airport owns dogs trained to search for narcotics, but since Sept. 11 it has continued to work with the police units in using dogs to search for bombs.

“We haven’t found anything,” Von Walter said. “It’s just an added security measure.”

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said the new regulations have been put in place to enhance security and put the minds of the public at ease.

“Before Sept. 11, a terrorist threat was being seen more overseas, Isham Cory said.

“Things have changed dramatically and we need to look at domestic flights as well as international flights.”

MSP has placed bomb-resistant garbage cans in front of the terminal to “prevent people from driving into the terminal,” Von Walter said.

Security personnel at the nation’s airports are trained to spot suspicious items in the carry-on screening process, Isham Cory said. Items now restricted include baseball bats, knives, corkscrews, golf clubs and ski poles.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, proposed legislation mandating no law enforcement personnel can prevent a pilot, copilot or navigator from carrying a gun on a plane. The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and is still being considered for approval.

Along with the new security regulations comes increased wait time at MSP, Von Walter said. Travelers are advised to arrive at the airport two hours ahead of a scheduled departure.

“Travelers have been very patient,” she said. “They’re keeping in mind that it’s all about their security.”

Kurt Ebenhoch, a media relations representative at Northwest, said wait times for check-in and security have remained constant for the airline.

“Employees and the public are working together to make the transition into the new regulations as smooth as possible,” Ebenhoch said.

The carry-on restrictions new to the FAA have been part of the Northwest policy since 1997, he said. “We’re open to any suggestions from the FAA to bolster airline, airport and customer security.”

Because parking and curbside access could be limited, a news release on the FAA Web site suggested passengers take public transportation to the airport.

The FAA is continuing to work with airports and airlines to make air travel as safe as possible.

“We’re looking for different ways to improve, enhance and bring security into the new world we’re headed into,” Isham Cory said. “We probably will see more changes in the future.”