Rushing into the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport with just minutes to spare before a departure is likely to mean a missed flight as security levels reached new heights in recent days.
Construction is nearing completion by Nor-son on a secure passenger waiting area at the terminal.
The construction effort basically cut the previous waiting area in half with glass separating a secure section through which passengers and carry-ons must be inspected before flights are boarded.
Passengers preparing for the 11:35 a.m. flight Monday took off their coats and placed them along with their carry-ons on a short conveyor belt. Mesaba Northwest Airlink employee Tracy McCalla watched the monitor as carry-on bags passed through the X-ray machine.
Passengers walked through the metal-detecting magnetometer.
On the other side of the partition, a Mesaba employee used a metal-detecting wand for those passengers who set off the magnetometer's alarm.
Kristy Claassen, who said she was visiting in the area and was now returning to her California home, took off her black boots after continuing to set off the wand detector. Claassen said this was the first time she was flying since September.
Before going through the new security measures, Claassen said waiting for a few people was still a breeze compared to California and metro airports.
"We feel fine about it," she said. "It is nice to go through the security checkpoint and see the military involved."
National Guard troops in the airport are still part of the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport security measures.
Glass for the secured area was scheduled for installation early this week. Special order glass doors for the section are expected to arrive later, completing the latest security changes.
Passengers boarding the red twin engine Mesaba Airlink plane were reminded to have photo identification and boarding passes out along with lap-top computers if they carried them.
The newly installed security measures at the airport mean passengers no longer will have to go through double screening here and then again at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Double screening stopped at midnight Friday.
Airport Manager Steve Sievek said passengers should arrive an hour before their flight departs in order to go through the security procedures and check-in. Sievek said the days of small airport convenience of arriving minutes before the plane departed are gone.
One passenger who arrived with just 20 minutes before the late morning flight departed Monday was reminded of that fact. The passenger was able to pass through security in time to board the plane. But late passengers are taking chances. The Mesaba Northwest Airlink check-in counter closes about 30 minutes before a flight.
Karen Skarolid, Mesaba Northwest Airlink manager in Brainerd, said employees have been through Federal Aviation Administration-required training to operate equipment and understand what they are seeing on screening monitors. Skarolid said the airline added staff to help with new security duties.
The X-ray and magnetometer were running for the first time at the Brainerd airport for the 5 p.m. flight Feb. 13.
For passengers, Skarolid said the biggest adjustment appears to be arriving an hour before the flight departs. Some passengers who were conscious of arriving early in the days after Sept. 11 have slipped back into old habits, Skarolid said. Security screening takes about five minutes per passenger. Passengers are reminded that sharp objects -- scissors, nail files and jack knifes that are still being collected -- may as well be left at home.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.