Airports remain closed, officials assess new security measures
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Footsteps echoed through the nearly empty international terminal at San Francisco’s airport Wednesday morning as airport officials throughout California assessed their ability to implement tighter security measures.
Flights remained grounded for a second day, and authorities were not sure how soon they would get permission to reopen from the Federal Aviation Administration.
San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson said that airport could be shut down until Friday. At San Jose International Airport, where 58 planes were sitting on the tarmac, officials said they definitely would not reopen before Thursday.
”There will be no flights out of San Jose today,” San Jose airport spokesman Steve Luckenbach said Wednesday morning. ”There is the possibility that if the ground orders are lifted, we’ll open tomorrow, but nothing has been determined yet.”
Airport officials in San Diego also said they would not reopen before Thursday. Officials at Los Angeles International Airport were unsure when flights would resume. Some non-commercial flights and medical aid missions were being allowed to leave LAX.
Only airport officials and employees were being allowed into San Francisco’s airport, which looked like a ghost town. Wilson said he had no idea when the airport would be able to resume flights.
”We’re not only dealing with San Francisco here,” he said. ”You can’t fly an airplane out of San Francisco in compliance with FAA documents to an airport that is not in compliance and won’t let the airplane land.”
Security at the San Francisco airport remained tight, with police officers at every major intersection into or out of the airport. Airport entrances remained closed off Highway 101.
There are a number of changes in store for SFO when the airport does reopen, Wilson said. Curbside check-in for international flights is likely to be done away with permanently.
”Many of the rules that will be implemented into the FAA document will parallel what is being done internationally today,” he said.
Wilson said SFO has the equipment to implement security upgrades, but additional resources may be necessary to smooth the transition. Among the changes are stricter prohibitions on passengers carrying knives.
”Any type of pocket knife, all folding or retractable knives, will be prohibited, even those less than 4 inches,” Luckenbach said, adding that airport restaurants and cafes won’t be able to provide knives – even plastic ones.
It may take a week before the nation’s air traffic returns to normal, stranding tens of thousands of travelers and leaving many scrambling for alternate modes of transportation.
Traffic around the nation was halted for the first time in history Tuesday, and officials predicted air travel will never be quite the same again.
When flights resume, there will be more security officers and random security checks, said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
”These terrorist acts are designed to steal the confidence of Americans,” he said. ”We will restore that confidence.”
As aviation officials hammered out plans to reactivate the nation’s flights – reorganizing the planes, flight crews, luggage and cargo that were not at their destinations – some stranded travelers turned to trains and buses.
”We’re adding cars to trains to accommodate the increased ridership,” said Liz O’Donoghue, a spokeswoman for Amtrak’s western region.
All four of the hijacked planes involved in the terrorist attacks were destined for California – three for Los Angeles and one for San Francisco. Two planes destroyed the World Trade Center, a third severely damaged the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Everybody on board the planes was believed killed.
The FAA ordered all outbound flights grounded Tuesday morning following the crashes.
The San Francisco airport, destination of United Flight 93, the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania, was evacuated Tuesday. Only essential personnel were allowed to stay in terminals normally teeming with some 100,000 passengers coming and going daily.
Piles of stranded luggage sat waiting to be returned to their owners. Commercial cargo, including a huge load of frozen fish, also sat waiting.
In response to the terrorist attacks, and in preparation for the reopening of flights, authorities and bomb-sniffing dogs combed the terminals and parking lots at both San Francisco and Los Angeles international airports Tuesday.
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El Dorado County deputies arrested two people on suspicion of grand theft and possession of burglary tools after reportedly finding items linked to catalytic converter thefts in a vehicle during a traffic stop Jan. 13.