Two more airports in compliance
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer
Few problems were reported as two more Hawai'i airports switched to federal security screening yesterday.
Lihu'e and Kona airports were the latest to replace contracted security personnel with employees of the new Transportation Security Administration. Honolulu, Hilo and Kahului began using federal screeners earlier this month.
Statewide, the new federal agency has hired about 750 employees, and that number could grow to close to 1,000 by the end of the year.
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act mandated a Nov. 19 deadline to have federal passenger screeners in place at all commercial airports in the United States. A Dec. 31 deadline was set to implement screening of all checked luggage for explosives.
Nobody is guaranteeing that the security screenings will be entirely comfortable or quick, and the startups at both Honolulu and Kahului were associated with long lines and delays because of equipment problems and novice screeners.
"I think they're getting through in a timely manner now. We've even been getting some accolades about the courtesy of our people," said Sidney Hayakawa, federal security director at Honolulu International Airport.
The opening process yesterday at the smaller airports in Lihu'e and Kona was relatively painless.
"We've been running very smoothly," said James Correa, federal security director for the Big Island airports. He said he has about 57 permanent screeners on staff at the Kona airport and 41 at Hilo, with more in training.
At Lihu'e, an oversized staff of screeners was on hand, since many were still in training.
Lines of passengers at Lihu'e sometimes grew to about 20 people, but they appeared to be processed quickly and there were periods with no lines at all.
Lihu'e federal security director Bob Schoonmaker said he has 45 permanent screeners on staff with more to come. The new employees must undergo 44 hours of classroom instruction and 60 hours of on-the-job experience.
The Kaua'i workers were being assisted by 16 members of the Transportation Security Administration's mobile screening force, which goes from airport to airport bringing screening skill levels up to standard.
Schoonmaker said passengers should notice no significant changes in security.
On Oct. 1, Honolulu International Airport opened the first of six federally operated screening locations. Hayakawa said he now has three security sites under his agency's control and expects to convert the remaining three to federal screening at a rate of one per week. Hayakawa said he has about 450 screeners on staff now, and expects that number to grow to 600.
Hilo and Kahului switched to federal screeners Oct. 8. Moloka'i and Lana'i airports will join the system soon, but no specific date has been set, said Lowrey Leong, federal security director for Kahului, Moloka'i and Lana'i.
Advertiser staff writer Hugh Clark contributed to this report.
Correction: Bob Schoonmaker is the new Transportation Security Administration federal security director at Lihu'e Airport. His first name was wrong in a previous version of this story.