Local officials are scrambling to react to a plan by the federal Transportation Security Administration to remove one of three baggage-screening units from the Grand Junction Regional Airport.
The move could jeopardize local efforts to recruit new daily flights to Grand Junction, but also threatens to cripple the airport’s ability to move passengers efficiently through the ticketing process during crowded times.
Those are some serious implications for the state’s fourth-busiest airport, which raises questions about information-sharing within the agency. In typical bureaucratic fashion, the proposed move appears to be rooted in bean counting at the upper echelons with little regard for conditions on the ground.
As the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon reported, a regular agency review found that one scanner was underutilized and could be used more effectively elsewhere.
Given the TSA’s well-publicized challenges moving airline passengers through security screenings, it’s hard to fault the agency for assessing resources. Tens of thousands of travelers have missed their flights in recent months as wait times at checkpoints exceeded two hours at busy hubs in places like Chicago and Seattle.
But the plan to move a scanner from Grand Junction was formulated last fall. Why are the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority and the Grand Junction Air Service Task Force finding out about this now? Fortunately, TSA officials have agreed to discuss the plan and those discussions should include Kip Turner, who was hired in May to be the new airport manager.
Still, it will be a challenge for local officials to thwart the move. They’re in the unenviable position of asking to keep a $400,000 piece of equipment in place because it will help them grow service when the TSA has numbers suggesting it’s being underutilized.
“The equipment was put in for a reason and air service has grown, so why is the equipment no longer needed?” said Dave Krogman, the general manager of West Star Aviation, which handles charters and flights for Allegiant Airlines.
Krogman is prepared to argue that removing the scanner not only hurts efforts to add enplanements, but could jam up existing carriers, reducing the likelihood of retaining their services.
Getting U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner involved can’t hurt, since a federal agency is involved, but the task force must convince the TSA that moving the scanner creates more problems than it solves and hamstrings efforts to make the airport a key cog in our economic turnaround.
Original article can be found here: http://www.gjsentinel.com/opinion