Airports want federal money to pay for fingerprinting machines

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's larger airports want federal money to purchase digital fingerprinting machines and perform criminal background checks on employees.

The state wants more than $1 million to fund electronic fingerprinting equipment for 17 state-owned rural airports across the state, and for Anchorage and Fairbanks, said Frank Richards, a maintenance engineer with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Juneau.

It's unclear whether the federal government will reimburse airports for the equipment because the new regulations only require that airport employees be fingerprinted, either electronically or the old-fashioned way by rolling fingers in ink, Joette Storm, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman in Anchorage, told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Richards said it's impractical to expect airports to gather fingerprints from the old method since it takes several weeks to get results versus only hours if fingerprints are taken electronically.

The problem arose because the FAA in December required that all airport and airline employees with access to secured areas be checked out with the FBI. Across the United States, that decision will mean more than 750,000 employees at about 400 airports will need to be fingerprinted by the end of the year.

Officials at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport already have purchased two electronic fingerprint machines. The machines are being used to check out some 8,000 airport employees, according to Terri Tibbe, airport security manager.

Tibbe said most airline and government employees working at the airport have their fingerprints on file with the FBI, but they have to be fingerprinted again under the new regulations.

Chuck Grandy, chief of safety at the Fairbanks International Airport, said an electronic fingerprinting machine should be in use at the airport by the middle of January.

He said about 800 people who work at the airport will have to be fingerprinted, a process that should be completed by the end of summer, well before the FAA's deadline.

''I think we can process four people an hour fairly easily,'' Grandy said.

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