Regional airports saw modest security improvements

Regional airports saw modest security improvements

9:00 PM, Sep. 3, 2011 |
Written by B.C. Kowalski, Jeff Engel and Nathaniel Shuda

Smaller, general aviation airports around central Wisconsin improved security measures and plans after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
At Alexander Field in Wisconsin Rapids, plans for erecting a fence to keep deer off the runways turned into implementing more security measures after Sept. 11, 2001, said Ron Swensen, administrator for the south Wood County airport.
“That’s why we put the barbed wire on top,” Swensen said, noting airport managers also have become more committed to knowing what’s going on. “They keep better track of what’s going in and out.”

In addition, managers change the security codes for the gates to the airport more often and share that information with fewer staff members and pilots, Swensen said.
“It wouldn’t be what you call the top bracket of security,” he said, noting the facility serves mainly private, small-engine aircraft and does not offer commercial flights like at Mosinee’s Central Wisconsin Airport.

Marshfield Municipal Airport did not receive any major government grants to beef up security in the wake of 9/11, but the state provided security training manuals and signs with guidelines for pilots that have been posted near the security gate. A Transportation Security Administration representative makes an annual visit to the small, general aviation airport, said manager Jeff Gaier.
The airport added more security cameras and installed punch code systems on the doors when it erected a new $1.67 million facility in 2007, Gaier said.

Gaier has seen caution and even paranoia replace the previously open attitudes of pilots, who take people out for fewer joy rides these days.
“After 9/11, you see a lot of that has gone away,” Gaier said. “You see a lot of 8-foot fences at airports.”
A few areas were changed at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport, said Jason Draheim, airport manager.
The Airport Watch Program implemented by the Transportation Security Administration meant even local pilots were encouraged to watch for suspicious activity and even intervene if necessary.

The airport has begun a project to erect a security fence around the perimeter of the airport that’s expected to finish next year. The fence is a result of increased awareness of security post 9/11.
“Most people think that fence is to keep wildlife out, but the intent is first and foremost security,” Draheim said.
Draheim also said law enforcement drills at the airport have increased since 9/11. He said there are typically around six per year conducted at the airport, including drills involving hostage situations.

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