- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Federal officials grounded most commercial flights for a second day to give carriers and airports time to implement new safety measures issued yesterday.
Federal authorities also decided to allow a limited reopening of the nation's commercial airspace to let flights that were diverted on Tuesday continue to their original destinations.
The new safety rules issued by the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration will ban time-saving measures passengers had used to get through crowded terminals more quickly.
"Safety is always of paramount importance, and in these extraordinary times, we intend to be vigilant. We remain committed to resuming commercial flights as soon as possible," Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said yesterday.
The new rules require airports to:
Discontinue passenger check-ins at curbs outside terminals, instead requiring travelers to check in at ticket counters inside airports.
Discontinue programs that let passengers check in at hotels to bypass lines.
Allow only passengers past security checkpoints so fewer people are in boarding areas.
Observe vehicles near airport terminals more closely.
Airports and airlines also will be expected to conduct more thorough searches of airplanes before passengers are allowed to board aircraft.
The FAA will prohibit passengers from taking all plastic and metal knives on board planes, regardless of their length. Prior to the new rule, only knives with blades longer than four inches were banned from airplanes. The change is attributable in part to reports indicating hijackers on one plane Tuesday seized control using knives.
"That's certainly part of it," FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said.
Mr. Mineta said at a brief White House news conference late yesterday that more can be done to improve the training of airport employees who work at security checkpoints and to reduce their turnover. Reducing the number of people who need to be screened by letting only passengers past checkpoints to boarding areas should improve the effectiveness of security personnel, or screeners, he predicted.
"We are looking at the whole issue of how to improve the ability to screen passengers as they come into the airport," Mr. Mineta said.
The FAA also could bolster airline safety by expanding its federal air-marshal program, in place since 1985.
"We're still looking at that, but that decision hasn't been made yet," Ms. Spitaliere said.
Mr. Mineta said he doesn't know how long it will take for airports to implement the new safety procedures and reopen, or how long it will be before the airspace ban is lifted completely.
"I can't give you a date or a time as to when we will be back in operation. We're trying to make that determination based on the safety and the security of the passengers and the airline operation, given the intelligence reports that we are getting," he said.
The FAA had expected all flights to resume by noon yesterday.
"Because of the concerns of the FBI and the intelligence agencies about intelligence information they had the determination was made to put off operations until we are sufficiently secure in our own information about when to resume operations," Mr. Mineta said.
Air carriers including United Airlines, US Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines hoped to begin flying after 6 p.m. yesterday.
Air carriers planning to resume diverted flights still were expected to get approval from the FAA and from each airport where planes were grounded before taking off again.
"We do hope we will be able to continue those flights that were diverted after the first FAA order. Our goal for the day is to get those passengers to that intended destination," Continental Airlines spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.
Continental diverted 106 flights Tuesday. The FAA does not have a list indicating the total number of U.S. flights diverted.
Under the new FAA rules, only passengers who were on diverted flights are able to reboard aircraft approved to fly again. The airlines won't be able to let new passengers on those flights.
Airlines also will be able to reposition empty aircraft at airports, the FAA said.
Passengers were allowed to return to Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports yesterday after 3 p.m. to retrieve luggage that was abandoned at the airports. Passengers were forced to leave their bags at the airports after the first-ever nationwide grounding of commercial flights in the wake of Tuesday's hijacking of two American Airlines flights and two United Airlines flights. Passengers weren't allowed beyond baggage areas.
When airports implement the new FAA security measures, passengers are likely to notice an increased police presence at airports, Ms. Spitaliere said.
"There will be changes that people notice and changes that take place behind the scenes that they won't notice," she said.
Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, declined to say whether more police will patrol Dulles or Reagan National when they reopen.
"We can't discuss [the security measures the airports are taking], but basically we are getting our facilities ready," she said.


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