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Context of '1998: FAA Testing Reveals Frightening Airport Security Lapses; Little Done in Response Except Small Penalties'

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finds at least 136 security violations at Boston’s Logan Airport between 1997 and early 1999. Flights 11 and 175 will depart from Logan on 9/11. Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, is fined $178,000 for these breaches, which include failing to screen baggage properly and easy access to parked planes. In summer 1999, a teenager is able to climb over the airport’s security fence, walk two miles across the tarmac, board a 747, and fly on it to London. In September 1999, the Boston Globe finds that doors are often left open at the airport, making it possible for potentially anyone to gain access to planes on the ground. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] After 9/11, an analysis by the Boston Globe will conclude that Logan’s security record is “dismal” (see 1991-2000). [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Massachusetts Port Authority, Logan International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The FAA creates “Red Teams” —small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems—in response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland. According to later reports, the Red Teams conduct extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports in 1998. The results were frightening: “We were successful in getting major weapons—guns and bombs—through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint.… The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in the FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.” [New York Times, 2/27/2002] In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston’s Logan Airport will be “fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations [between 1999-2001]. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely [fail] to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Steve Kanarian.Steve Kanarian. [Source: Steve Kanarian]The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) holds a training exercise at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a jet aircraft carrying about 150 passengers crashing at the end of the runway. [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002; Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23] The exercise, called Operation Low Key, is an annual drill, which assesses the emergency preparedness response to aviation accidents at La Guardia Airport. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 18]
Exercise Is Intended as Preparation for a Mass Casualty Incident - Before the exercise begins, its participants gather in a briefing room at the airport where Robert McCracken, chief of EMS operations, tells them the exercise is “an important drill for preparation for an aviation accident or a MCI [mass casualty incident].” The exercise commences when an announcement is made, informing participants that a “10-40”—a confirmed plane crash—has been reported at the airport. Participants in their emergency vehicles are then escorted across the runway by members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 21-23] (La Guardia Airport is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Reuters, 7/27/2015] )
Exercise Is Regarded as 'a Job Well Done' - The participants arrive at the scene of the simulated crash where there is a plane, and mock casualties are strewn around the runway. To the left, a fire is burning, simulating a burning aircraft. The firefighters and EMS personnel then carry out their response to the mock disaster as if they were responding to a real incident. At the end of the exercise, they gather in the PAPD building at the airport and discuss the day’s events. They are “complimented on a job well done,” according to Steve Kanarian, an FDNY paramedic who participates in the exercise. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23-25] La Guardia Airport is eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the Red Cross, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon (see September 8, 2001). [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] Three days later, on September 11, FDNY EMS personnel will receive a real report of a “10-40” and subsequently respond to the crashes at the World Trade Center. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002; JEMS, 9/7/2011]

Entity Tags: New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, La Guardia Airport, Steve Kanarian, New York City Fire Department, Port Authority Police Department, Operation Low Key, Robert McCracken

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Primary power is lost and internal alarms warn that there is no water pressure in World Trade Center Building 7 after Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 pdf file] WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located about 370 feet north of the North Tower. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 2] Immediately after Flight 175 hits the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), it loses “primary power,” according to Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, which has offices in the building. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Utility company Con Edison will later specify that two “open/auto” feeders, which distribute power from a substation, go off at this time. [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file] The feeders trip automatically “as a result of collateral damage” caused by the plane hitting the tower, a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643] However, the building still has electricity, since, according to Bylicki, the power supply “switched to auxiliary generators.” Also at this time, Bylicki will state, the “fire alarm enunciator panel lit up, indicating there was no water pressure for fire suppression in the building.” [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] WTC 7 was built over a Con Edison electrical substation, which now provides power to the entire WTC complex. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 633] Several Con Edison employees are currently present in this substation. These employees will see “[n]o fire or significant physical damage” there before the site is evacuated, at around 10:20 a.m., according to NIST. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 357, 640] The electrical power in WTC 7 went off at 8:46 a.m., when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, but it came back on after a few seconds (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Richard Bylicki, Con Edison

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey orders all bridges and tunnels in the area of New York City closed. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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