- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

From combined dispatches
Baltimore-Washington International Airport will become a "laboratory" airport where security measures and technologies will be tested, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said yesterday.
Mr. Mineta said the Transportation Security Administration, created by President Bush after the September 11 terrorist attacks, will work with Maryland officials in using the airport to study security operations, test techniques and technology, and train senior Transportation Security Administration managers.
"I spoke this week to Governor Parris Glendening, who has pledged his full support of making BWI a model. The airlines at BWI have similarly stepped up to help," he said.
The relationship will begin immediately, Mr. Mineta said in a speech in Washington before the Transportation Research Board, an industry group.
He added that airlines working with the government will meet tomorrow's congressionally imposed deadline for screening all checked baggage for explosives.
On Sept. 27, Mr. Mineta boarded a flight at BWI to convince people frightened by the terrorist attacks that commercial air travel is "safe, secure and stable." It was his first commercial flight after the attacks.
"We're flattered because it shows our importance to the region. [The Transportation Security Administration] will come here to train their people, to test their techniques. We're the airport they chose to begin their process," said BWI spokesman John White.
In his speech, Mr. Mineta said all checked bags nationwide would be routinely inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs, by equipment that can detect traces of explosives, or by hand searches by security personnel.
In addition, a bag will not be loaded onto an airplane unless it is accompanied by a passenger, he said.
"All of us here understand that we have entered a new era in transportation, an era in which a determined enemy has challenged one of America's most cherished freedoms namely, the freedom of mobility."
He said the department would meet two other deadlines in the aviation security law: developing a training program for security screeners, including 40 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of training on the job; and developing guidelines for training flight crews who face threats.
Mr. Mineta initially said he doubted the airlines could meet the deadline for screening checked bags, but later pledged that the department would do everything possible to meet the timetable.
Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House transportation aviation subcommittee, praised the baggage-screening announcement.
"The measures are exactly what we called for in the law," he said. "There may be some slight delays as far as passenger boarding, but the traveling public is willing to sacrifice a little bit of time for additional safety."
Mr. Mineta pledged to comply with congressionally imposed deadlines for improving airline security but said federal officials will have to move carefully as they carry out a number of requirements.
He said replacing the privately run screening force will not be easy. "It is simply impossible to flip a switch and deploy more than 30,000 employees, all at once," Mr. Mineta said.
He said the administration hopes to complete the transition to a work force fully under federal supervision at about 430 commercial airports by the end of this year.
The airline industry said earlier in the week that tomorrow it would start inspecting all checked bags for explosives. The industry hands over responsibility for airline security to the Transportation Security Administration on Feb. 17.
The airlines have long resisted efforts to make sure passengers travel with their bags, as recommended by presidential panels formed after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the crash of TWA Flight 800.
Tom Ramstack contributed to this report.

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