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Airport Security


An airline terminal for a security-wary era

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Mar 11, 2008

From the moment that passengers first arrive at JetBlue Airways’ $750 million terminal at Kennedy International Airport in September, they will face an unmistakably post-9/11 world.

Most airline terminals have been jury-rigged since 2001 to accommodate all the extra security workers and equipment. But JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 is among the first in the United States designed from the ground up after the terrorist attacks.

The 340-foot-wide security checkpoint will dominate the departures hall the way ticket counters once did, occupying the focal point of the Y-shaped building.

There will be 20 security lanes. “They were sized with the idea that passengers have luggage, have children, have wheelchairs and have special needs,” said William R. DeCota, director of aviation at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs Kennedy.

After running the security gantlet, travelers will find a lot of benches where they can pull themselves back together.

There will be subtler touches, too: resilient rubber Tuflex floor (instead of cold, hard terrazzo) for the areas where one has to go shoeless.

“We want the security process to be thoroughly rigorous but minimally intrusive,” Mr. DeCota said. “The design of that terminal was intended to make sure that no one will have to worry that their wait time is going to be greater than 10 minutes.”

JetBlue handled 28 percent of Kennedy’s 47.7 million passengers last year. The airline expects that by the end of this year, 44,000 passengers will be passing through Terminal 5 each day. The airline operates 170 flights a day at Kennedy, but could operate 250 flights from the 26 gates at Terminal 5.

Despite its scale, Terminal 5 has been overshadowed by its connection to the landmark Trans World Airlines Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen, which stands at the same corner of the airport and is also known as Terminal 5. The Port Authority plans an interim renovation of the Saarinen building, which has been closed for seven years. JetBlue passengers will be able to pass through it on their way to the new Terminal 5.

It has been designed by the Gensler firm, working with DMJM Harris/Aecom, Arup and the authority’s master planner, William Nicholas Bodouva & Associates.

Given a more-or-less blank slate, they were able to design spaces to accommodate security technology, rather than cramming technology into existing spaces.

For instance, formidable-looking X-ray explosive detection machines are often found in the middle of departure lobbies. These add inconvenient steps to the inspection process.

The detection machines at Terminal 5, on the other hand, are out of sight and integrated into what is called an in-line baggage handling system. Bags move automatically from the ticket counter through several inspection points to the tugs that take them out to the aircraft, rather than being hand carried from one area to the next.

Pointing to the system on a floor plan, William D. Hooper Jr., a managing director of Gensler, said: “The heart of the terminal is in places like this. All that stuff that came up into the terminal after 9/11, some of it as big as a Volkswagen, is here.”

Airline executives and authority officials emphasized that the security measures at Terminal 5 were not better than those at other terminals, simply that they promised to be faster.

nytimes.com

An airline terminal for a security-wary era
David W. Dunlap/The New York Times



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