No Guard planned for Kenai airport

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

Kenai Municipal Airport will stand unguarded, even after an announcement Monday by Gov. Tony Knowles that more than 230 members of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard will provide increased security in 19 airports across the state.

"Kenai isn't a Category 3 type of airport," said Joette Storm, community relations manager for the Civil Aviation Security Division of the Federal Aviation Administra-tion in Anchorage.

"There are a lot of factors that go into that determination," she said.

Among these factors are size of the airport, number of passenger seats on commercial jets leaving the airport, the types of carriers and the assessment of security needs. Until recently, Kenai did not offer security screening of luggage.

"The screening that Era (Aviation) does is of its own volition," Storm said. "Guardsmen are only doing screening."

Kenai Airport Manager Rebecca Cronkhite said the FAA's regulations based on the number of passenger seats exceeds what the airport normally sees.

"Because we don't have large aircraft, we don't qualify for the FAA security standards," she said. "The FAA has a 60-seat cutoff. The largest airplane leaving from Kenai is the Convair, which has 50 seats."

Staff Sgt. Roy Brendible of the Alaska National Guard Armory in Kenai listed the airports that would receive National Guard services and said there are three specific categories that break down by size of the airport and importance. Anchorage, Fairbanks and Valdez are Category 1 airports; Juneau, Kodiak and Sitka are among those listed in Category 2; and King Salmon, Unalaska and Dead Horse are included on the Category 3 list.

Storm said the decision to omit Kenai from coverage came as a combined decision from the governor's office, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Depart-ment of Transportation and Public Facilities.

"Because funding is coming from the state, if Kenai and the governor's office talk, there might be a change," she said.

City Manager Linda Snow said the city applied to the governor's office to have guardsmen at the airport, but she has yet to hear a response.

Snow said the application sent to the governor's office included the airport's claim to being an emergency landing facility for Anchorage-bound flights. Storm, however, disputed this claim, saying that in emergencies, flights would be diverted to Fairbanks.

Snow said the city was content to wait for a response from Knowles' office.

"It's not our intention to follow up unless we hear from the FAA," Snow said. "We take our cues from them. The National Guard is intended to provide extra security, and we don't have any to begin with."

Snow said the airport currently doesn't have the electronic luggage screeners that bigger airports have. The city did hire additional security personnel for the airport from Guardian Security, a private firm.

"We're doing everything we've been asked to do," Cronkhite said. "Era Aviation has even gone the extra mile to make sure passengers are safe."

Cronkhite said she is comfortable with the lack of attention Kenai is getting from the National Guard, though.

"Not being a high-security risk is not a bad thing."

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