An engineering firm is expected to spend most of 2007 evaluating Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s perimeter security and will make recommendations for improving it.
Burns Engineering Inc., a firm with offices in Phoenix and around the country, will deliver its recommendations and cost estimates next November, after which airport officials will decide whether to move forward.
It’s likely the firm will present several options. A perimeter-intrusion detection system could consist of everything from lasers and closed-circuit television to below-ground sensors and could cost millions, the airport has said.
The upgrades are not necessarily considered to be antiterrorism tools and are not mandated by the federal government. Instead, Sky Harbor says any technology would primarily be used to protect passengers from everyday threats.
The airport currently relies primarily on police patrols and similar measures to monitor the grounds.
“We’ve had wandering pedestrians come out of the riverbed and try to go across a runway in the middle of the day, while planes are taking off,” said Paul Hamersly, deputy aviation director for technology. “We’ve had vehicles driven by drunk drivers come off Air Lane and plow into our fences.”
A high-profile breach occurred in 2005, when a man in a stolen truck was able to breach a gate and gain access to the airfield, speeding past several taxiing commercial jets in the process.
The incident made national television and prompted Sky Harbor to spend $10 million on upgrades to its perimeter fences, a project that is still under way.
But this new system would go several steps beyond that and would be much more technologically advanced than what is in place. The airport says the need for the technology was first identified in its master security plan, which was updated in 2004.