Atlantic City Aviation Security Hotspot

Discussion in 'Modern' started by Njaco, Oct 16, 2007.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
    Staff Member Moderator

    Feb 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    Animal Control Officer
    Southern New Jersey
    AC not just for gambling anymore.

    from Everything Jersey

    A.C. an aviation, security hotspot
    Sunday, October 14, 2007
    By Bill Cahir
    [email protected]
    WASHINGTON A select group of cities around the country enjoy strong ties to the U.S. government and its purse strings. Each year they benefit from Uncle Sam's investment in research and development, military training and homeland security operations.

    Atlantic City, known for its casinos, beaches and boardwalk not to mention an occasional disappearing mayor wants to join the club benefiting from the research and development funding and from the homeland-security cash asU.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo claims that he's got the ball rolling.

    Sound absurd?

    If Atlantic City hasn't always been considered a star in the federal government's research and development firmament, perhaps that perception soon will change.

    Wilson N. Felder, Ph.D., director of the Federal Aviation Administration's research and development laboratory, called the William J. Hughes Technical Center, oversees a sprawling research facility at a 5,500-acre complex next to the Atlantic City airport.

    Felder, a former Navy intelligence officer, is overseeing the development of a new satellite-based air traffic control system, just one of dozens of aviation research projects based at South Jersey's unique facility.

    "This is a one-of-a-kind national asset," Felder said. "It doesn't exist anywhere else."

    The Next Generation Air Transportation System will rely on planes to broadcast their heading, speed, altitude and other GPS information to receivers on the ground and other airplanes in the sky.

    Once planes are re-configured, pilots will be able to look at a cockpit screen and share a common picture of the air space when they talk to controllers on the ground.

    Felder argues that the new system will be every bit as safe, reliable and robust as radar. "Remember, before it goes out, it's gotta get by me first," Felder stated.

    Susan Hallowell, Ph.D., director of the science and technology arm of the Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL), has her staff, located on the same Atlantic City campus, working to detect, deter and mitigate explosive attacks on civilian airplanes.

    Hallowell's engineers have helped develop and test not just X-ray machines for luggage, but also the devices that puff compressed air onto passengers' bodies and assess whether their clothing bears any explosive residue.

    "Everything works in a lab, under the loving hands of a physicist," Hallowell said. The TSL works with personnel from the Transportation Security Administration to ensure they are properly trained and to solve problems they experience on the job.

    Some of Hallowell's engineers are blowing up bombs inside luggage containers, testing whether boxes can be reinforced to the extent that they contain an explosion.

    Other scientists are working with explosive detection devices to reduce the number of false positives that they generate.

    "We're an honest broker. We're here to test what works and what doesn't work," Hallowell said.

    The Transportation Security Laboratory traces its roots to the Dec. 21, 1988, explosion that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. But Hallowell says that, since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the laboratory has been working feverishly to test and deploy new technologies into airports.

    Robert Rogers, special agent in charge of the training of federal air marshals, works out of a series of new buildings at the federal complex at the same Atlantic City campus.

    Rogers and his instructors, a group of crack shots with .357 pistols, have developed more than 70 hours of live-fire training for the air marshals and a concurrent program that focuses on martial-arts skills and law enforcement issues.

    "The firearms training program is very aggressive," Rogers said.

    Applicants shoot at stationary targets and also at mock-ups of terrorists interspersed with innocent civilians. The firing range includes standard targets and the simulated aisles of a crowded commercial aircraft.

    "We've never had a problem getting people to apply," Rogers said.

    The air marshal program takes 13 weeks. But Rogers and his deputies also run a two-day refresher course for those commercial pilots who have completed a firearms training program in New Mexico.

    The federal flight-deck officer initiative, as it is called, authorizes pilots to carry pistols as a last line of defense. Rogers says "thousands" of pilots have completed the pistol-training program and the refresher course since 2003.

    One computer-generated part of the refresher course shows different videos of assailants attempting to breach a cockpit door. The scenarios require pilots to determine whether to stand, turn and fire a practice weapon. A computer places the pilot's shots on the screen if any have been fired.

    The 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard has its own section of the 5,500-acre aviation facility.

    LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., on Wednesday hailed the opening of a new barracks for the pilots and airmen of the wing, who are known as the Jersey Devils, and a new hangar meant for their aircraft.

    The pilots and crews, responsible for maintaining defensive flights over New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, will be able to launch their planes in less than six minutes instead of nine, according to LoBiondo, who obtained $12.7 million for the project, and Col. Randall King, commander of the 177th.

    "We are one of the few units that simultaneously does training here while we prosecute a real-world mission. The active-duty (Air Force) doesn't do this. We do this here in the Air National Guard," Col. King stated.

    The U.S. Coast Guard maintains 10 HH-65C Dolphin helicopters at what it calls Air Station Atlantic City, another section of the Atlantic City facility.

    Coast Guard pilots use the helicopters for short-range search-and-rescue operations, for drug interdiction operations, and for homeland security patrols in the mid-Atlantic region.

    Coast Guard personnel in Atlantic City also are responsible for conducting missions in Washington, D.C.

    The Atlantic City station has deployed three of its 10 helicopters to the nation's capital. The pilots fly out of Reagan National Airport and attempt to intercept small planes on errant flight paths.

    No one has written a manual to explain how to use an unarmed rescue helicopter to track and deter a small terrorist plane from its course, stated Lieutenant Commander Russell (Rusty) Sloane, U.S. Coast Guard. He and other pilots have simply taught themselves to handle the mission.

    Some of the younger, less experienced pilots get wide-eyed when they are asked to fly their helicopters toward other aircraft, but soon enough, the new guys come around, Lt. Cmdr. Sloane said.

    The Coast Guard pilots can get in the air in less than 20 minutes after getting an alert. And the helicopters, recently retrofitted with new engines, almost never have mechanical problems.

    "I attribute that to the enlisted maintenance force that we have. They keep us out of trouble," Lt. Cmdr. Sloane said.

    Five low-profile components quietly take up a essential national mission in South Jersey: promoting safe commercial flight and preventing terror attacks. And, in the process, they are bringing more high-tech federal jobs and federal money into the Atlantic City area.

Share This Page