To increase security and weed out potential terrorists, workers at seven airports nationwide will undergo more vigorous screening beginning in May.
The additional checks are part of a 90-day test program run by the federal Transportation Security Administration. People who work at airports across the country already receive some screening — such as background checks and random searches — before they are given access to secure areas, said TSA spokesman Christopher White.
Some airport workers have unfettered access to aircraft and potentially dangerous materials. Officials are concerned that people with bad intentions could pose as airport workers and gain access to these areas.
TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said the tests will help the agency figure out the best way to secure the operations side of airports.
The screening tests will be conducted at airports in Boston, Denver, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Fla., New Bern, N.C., Eugene and North Bend, Oregon. Screening procedures will vary by airport.
For instance, at Logan International Airport in Boston, all workers at the airport and vehicles at the airport's perimeter will be screened, and some workers' fingerprints and irises will be scanned electronically to verify their identities. At Jacksonville International Airport and Craven Regional Airport in North Carolina, all employees in the public and secure areas will be physically screened every day.
At the other four airports, there will be random screening and awareness training. A total of 53,000 workers will be affected by these screening tests.
Congress mandated the screening test programs late last year.
The aviation sector has been on high alert since August 2006 when authorities uncovered a plot to blow up airliners headed from London to the United States.