Monday, July 14, 2014

SMALL-TOWN AIRPORT SECURITY: Airports in Nampa, Caldwell have different security needs than Boise - Idaho

CANYON COUNTY — The Nampa Municipal Airport doesn’t have the same security challenges of larger airports like the Boise Airport or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, airport superintendent Monte Hasl said.

You won’t see uniformed personnel monitoring the grounds, he said, although officers from the Nampa Police Department drive by frequently during their patrols.

What you will see, Hasl said, are 24-hour surveillance cameras, fences, signage and keypad-operated security gates and a tight-knit community of pilots and enthusiasts who know who’s supposed to be there, and aren’t afraid to speak up when something looks suspicious.

“I maintain close communication with the businesses out here. They’re kind of my eyes and ears,” Hasl said. “We know who’s supposed to be here, who’s not supposed to be here.”

It works for them, Hasl said. In the seven years he’s worked at the airport, he’s never seen a serious breach of security.

Another big part of it, he said, is to encourage aircraft owners to keep their planes locked tight. And there are many ways to do that, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other: propeller locks, throttle locks and ignition systems that use a different key than the doors.

Rob Oates, manager of the Caldwell Industrial Airport, said that airports can be roughly divided into two categories: those that cater to a high volume of passenger-carrying traffic — such as Boise — and those that don’t. Nampa and Caldwell fall into the latter category, which puts them in a different ballpark in terms of Federal Aviation Administration requirements they have to meet.

Like Nampa, the Caldwell airport also relies on those who visit frequently to keep their eyes peeled for suspicious activity. And at almost any time of day, there’s someone doing some kind of legitimate activity on the grounds, Oates said.

That means there’s almost never a time for those with ill intent to lurk around the airport free from suspicious eyes, he said. Everyone with keycard access to the Caldwell airport has been through a safety and security briefing in Oates’ office. And pilots tend to be the type who watch each other’s backs.

“The pilots and aircraft owners tend to be a very, very strong ‘neighborhood watch’ kind of a force,” Oates said. “People tend to look out for each other, because keeping a bad guy out of my neighbor’s hangar not only helps me, it helps make sure they’re not going to get into my hangar either.”


Neither the Caldwell nor Nampa airport has control towers. So who’s in charge of the aircraft traffic as it takes off, lands and taxis along the runway?

The answer is simple, Oates said: The pilots do it themselves.

Maybe “simple” isn’t the best way to put it. Pilots go through a rigorous process when they check to make sure their paths are clear, he said.

“When they roll out to the runway, they’re required to physically look to see who might be approaching,” Oates said.

 Typically, they’ll announce their intentions over the radio so other nearby pilots know what they’re up to. Those operating out of smaller airports like Nampa and Caldwell aren’t required to have radios in their crafts, Oates said, but it’s almost unheard of for a pilot to fly without one.

“They talk to each other. There is no air traffic control involved,” Hasl said. “The problem with that — it happened a few years ago in McCall — is when they don’t use it. One guy was taking off, he’s driving out to the runway thinking, ‘I’m not hearing anybody, so nobody’s there.’ Guy flying in, he’s thinking the same thing. So they have to announce. They’ll usually announce five, eight, nine miles out. So you listen, and see if anybody responds.”

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