PORTLAND, Maine — The man took two steps out the exit door of a passageway from the Portland International Jetport boarding area. He turned and quickly rolled a golf ball back through the doorway behind him.
The door promptly shut tight, lights flashed and alarms sounded. Had that golf ball been some sort of illegal substance, passed back from an unsecured section of the airport in the direction of the secured concourse, the contraband and perpetrators would have been sealed in and contained.
In this case, the man was airport Assistant Facilities Manager Cuyler Feagles and the innocuous item was rolled back as a demonstration of the jetport’s new $415,000 security system’s sensitivity.
“You could really throw a Life Saver [candy] through it and set it off, but what we’re really looking for is something about the size of your hand,” said Frank Pervola, business development manager of Tyco Integrated Security, the company that helped implement the system. “C4 about the size of your hand can bring down a whole plane.”
The Portland jetport is one of two airports in the country to install the new video sensor security system, in which arriving passengers depart the concourse through a secured area monitored by highly sensitive cameras. If an individual attempts to go against the tide — and break into the boarding area without going through the proper screening checkpoints elsewhere in the building — the video capture technology will trigger an automatic lockdown of the passageway and alert security guards.
Previously, the exit from the concourse was simply manned by those guards.
“This clearly surpasses any kind of manned system we could have,” Feagles told reporters during Tuesday morning’s demonstration of the system. “A security guard can only pick up so much. This technology is so much more sensitive.”
Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said it costs the airport $106,000 annually — mostly in payroll — to operate a staffed exit checkpoint, so the new system will pay for itself in savings in less than four years.
Bradbury said the facility paid for the project with money set aside for its $75 million terminal expansion, which was completed two years ago and largely funded by passenger fees.
“You have to get passengers getting off the aircraft out of that sterile area, and up to this date in Portland, we’ve always had these exits staffed,” he said. “Now we’re going to use technology to take over that task, and ideally this will fundamentally save money and save efficiency, and allow us to use those security guards … for more important tasks.
“I think that this is the future for all airports,” Bradbury continued.