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Federal security team tours airport

The newly minted Transportation Security Administration made its presence felt on the Medford tarmac this week, as a federal airport security survey team toured the airport to plan for the placement of explosives detection devices.

The federal agency signed into existence by President Bush last November will assume responsibility for all of the nation's 429 airport security systems by December.

They were here today doing some surveying, said Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport manager Bern Case, explaining that the purpose of the survey was to do some assessment of our building, and how it can work best with the new machinery.

The agency's Web site says the detection equipment deployed at each airport will depend on the airport's needs. All airports will receive the technology in at least one of two forms.

The first, known as Explosives Trace Detection technology, works by collecting samples and detecting vapors and residues of explosives.

A simple swab test is conducted on baggage by a security screener, who can obtain results in less than 10 seconds through a chemical analyzer.

The second is known as Explosives Detection Systems, which makes use of probing radiation to identify explosives.

The latter is by far the more expensive, according to the Web site, costing about &

36;750,000 per machine versus &

36;40,000 for the former.

The machine's size could also be an issue at some airports: It weighs 9,000 pounds and is as large as a mini-van.

Case said airline ticket counters are one likely site for the new equipment.

The agency will have to determine whether to place one device at each ticket counter or install one device for all of them to share.

How many (machines) and where (to place them) is what they're analyzing, he said.

In addition to planning for explosives detection equipment, the federal agency must review passenger screening measures. A survey team assigned to assess passenger screening capabilities at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport will arrive soon, Case said.

As for what employees might be lost in the transfer to the new agency, Case said,I think a lot of them are applying for the new federal jobs.