On Friday, July 22, 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared there would be a partial shutdown of the FAA because their authorization for funding and operation would be expiring and a new authorization was in limbo between the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This inaction on the part of Congress for two weeks led to furloughs of nearly 4,000 FAA employees, the layoff of tens of thousands of construction workers employed to work on airport projects, the partial shutdown or stoppage of safety projects and a cost to the government of more than $1 billion in revenue from uncollected airline ticket taxes. This shutdown did not affect flight operations so the traveling public was not directly impacted by it. However, some airports in the U.S. Aviation System were. Their funding for Airport Improvement Projects (AIP) funded through FAA grants was temporarily interrupted. AIP monies are dedicated for safety infrastructure and purchases. Approximately 250 projects nationwide were affected. Fortunately, none of them were at Armstrong. Upon the return of the House and Senate to Washington last month, a four-month extension of funding was passed. This is the longest extension Congress has provided since September of 2009. A short term authorization has been approved 20 times in the past. Hopefully, a multi-year extension will be approved soon to provide stability needed to plan and move forward with needed improvements in the national aviation transportation system while a final agreement on the FAA Reauthorization bill is hammered out.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was in the news at the airport last month with a new security announcement. The TSA debuted new passenger screening software at Armstrong International that eliminates controversial passenger imagery. Since the introduction of the millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, the TSA has been under fire for what has been described as explicit imagery of passengers produced by the machines and viewed by TSA personnel. On Friday, September 16, 2011, at Armstrong International Airport, TSA presented their new screening software referred to as Automated Target Recognition. The $3 million software enhances privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and instead depicts anomalies detected during the screening process through a generic, computer-generated outline of a person that is identical for all passengers. The new software features a monitor attached to the AIT unit. When the software detects potential threat items on a passenger during screening, a generic outline of a person appears on the monitor highlighting any areas on the passenger that require additional screening. If no anomalies are detected, the text "OK” appears on the monitor with no outline and the passenger is cleared. Since the viewing device for the TSA agents is mounted to the actual screening equipment the passenger walks through, the off-site screening room previously used with the old software is no longer in use. The new software is being installed in all AIT units in 40 airports and is now in use at our airport. For more information on AIT, visit www.tsa.gov/ait.
Last, I am sad to report the passing of Mr. Henry Smith, our St. Charles representative on the New Orleans Aviation Board (NOAB). Mr. Smith was the longest serving member of the board with a service record of 26 years. He also served on the NOAB Construction Committee. His expertise in construction and his business experience and acumen were instrumental in helping the Aviation Board conduct its monthly business and planning for the future. On behalf of the board and the NOAB staff, we extend our condolences to his family. Mr. Smith will be greatly missed.
Iftikhar Ahmad, director of aviation for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport may be reached by clicking here. Check your local listings for the air time of the Armstrong International Airport 30 minute television program, "Airport Alive,” or view it on the airport website, www.flymsy.com, by clicking on the "Airport Alive” link on the "News and Stats” page. You can now follow the airport on Facebook.com/Armstrongintl and Twitter @NO Airport. To find out how to be a volunteer at the airport, click on "Ambassador” on the airport’s website homepage.