Report cites lapses at airports

FAA records show 1,346 security lapses in Pennsylvania over a 21/2-year period.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- Federal aviation inspectors at Pennsylvania airports were able to sneak mock bombs past security checkpoints 20 times over a 21/2-year period, a newspaper reported.
There were a total of 1,346 security lapses, ranging from not filing reports correctly to failing to detect dummy hand grenades, in Pennsylvania from 1998 to August 2000, according to an analysis of FAA enforcement records by The Patriot-News of Harrisburg.
Fines: Sixteen of the 79 security lapses at Harrisburg International Airport led to $113,050 in fines, levied mostly on the airlines using the facility -- the fourth-highest amount among similarly sized airports in the nation.
"It's a question of us being pretty much asleep at the switch," Richard D. Gritta, a business professor at the University of Portland in Oregon who specializes in the airline industry, said of the data.
Gritta said there is no one entity to blame for the lapse, because before Sept. 11, no one demanded it.
"I think most people felt it was secure enough," he said. "The perception was different than the reality."
From 1998 to August 2000, the FAA documents show there were 16 security lapses involving handguns or other weapons at Harrisburg International Airport.
Fred Testa, the airport's director of aviation, said the FAA uses such testing as a teaching tool.
"They try every way possible to break security," said Testa, who previously managed Philadelphia International Airport. "If there are 50 violations, that means the FAA got through 50 times. It's a learning process, and they fine the airlines. It's not really a security breach."
Nontraditional weapons: Testa also noted that hijackers who commandeered aircraft during coordinated attacks Sept. 11 didn't get traditional weapons -- guns or bombs -- past security.
"What did get on these planes?" he asked. "Four-inch pen knives and razor blades. Box cutters are just razor blades. That's allowed by FAA. You are allowed to take those things ... in your carry-on luggage."
"We had no failure of security," he said. "Those poor $7-an-hour guys they're pointing their fingers at -- and saying 'undertrained, underpaid, failed miserably' -- they work."
Instead, the FAA's standards failed, Testa said.
Security would improve if the FAA "stuck to its role and if it got enough money" to do a better job, Testa said.
FAA officials refused to comment on the enforcement data.