SEA-TAC AIRPORT - When there's a significant security breach as there was at the airport in San Jose, California, questions are often asked of other airports around the country. Could that happen here?
News accounts say over the weekend that a teenage boy now identified as being 15 years old climbed the fence at the San Jose airport, then moved over to the landing gear of a Hawaiian Airlines 767 and climbed up into the wheel well. Security cameras show that image, but nobody at the airport noticed it at the time, said authorities.
The teen survived a flight of five and one half hours at altitudes up to 38,000 feet to Maui, where he was spotted by a security camera there, after climbing down from the wheel well. That time he was spotted, and was immediately apprehended.
Inside the security center of Sea-Tac airport, hundreds of cameras around the airport are monitored 24/7. But it's not like every camera is up at the same time when people staring at them continuously.
"This room can see all those cameras when they need to see them." said Christian Samlaska, Sea-Tac's senior manager of aviation security.
Many are aimed at gates and doors either inside the terminal itself or close to it. If something triggers a door alarm, that camera pops up on the screen and somebody can dispatch a police officer or security person to that location to check it out. But there are no such triggers on remote fence lines...and that is now under consideration.
"This is a very large airport and a very large operating area." said Samlaska. What that means that on the off chance somebody could hop the 12 foot high barbed wire fence, they would have to get past constant perimeter patrols driving along remote fence lines. In some cases there is a second fence and at most places a lot of open land to cross before accessing any airplane. More opportunities to be spotted, caught and stopped. In smaller San Jose, what appear to be eight foot fences are right there next to gates and aircraft.
But even here, remote fence security is expected to tighten at Sea-Tac. Airport security officials are reviewing radar technologies designed to pick up people approaching fence lines.
"And that's what we're testing for. We want to know when humans...try to get in. We want to be able to address that right away." said Samlaska.