Security agencies try to sniff out problems at airport
By AUDREY PARENTE, Staff Writer
July 3, 2010 12:05 AM
Volusia County sheriff’s deputy Joseph Durney and Nero inspect a jet, owned by Dale Earnhardt Inc., at the Daytona Beach International Airport.
N-J | David Massey
DAYTONA BEACH —
A bomb-sniffing dog was nosing at the wheels of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ride Friday, but not his race car.
Volusia County Sheriff’s K-9 Nero, and his partner, Deputy Joseph Durney, checked the underside of Earnhardt’s Learjet and numerous other private aircraft parked at Daytona Beach International Airport for the Coke Zero 400 event.
The enhanced security team is labeled Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) and has been implemented more than 3,500 times for special events and other incidents where large numbers of people are using transportation systems, Federal Homeland Security Director Edward Goodwin said.
Uniformed deputies, the K-9 unit, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a full array of Transportation Security Administration personnel are here to provide a visible deterrent force, said Goodwin, who is in charge of airports at Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Daytona Beach and St. Augustine’s commercial flights.
“It could involve additional screenings on the roads in and around the event venue,” he said. “These operations could include the track and we do work closely with people at the Speedway. We don’t inspect the aircraft as an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) thing, but under TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) regulations.”
Airport Marketing Director Steve Cooke said commercial and private air traffic increases substantially during race events. The north-south runway becomes a parking lot.
“U.S. Airway has seven additional flights just for the race,” Cooke said. “And there’s a lot more (private and charter) aircraft, although not so much as the past few years.”
Friday’s VIPR team inspections included Earnhardt’s plane, a Roush racing team’s 727 and three Hendrick Motor Sports turboprop Saabs.
SheltAir Aviation Services and other companies do ground support, from cleaning to parking the planes, Cooke said.
SheltAir General Manager, Arvin Weese, said the Coke Zero 400 draws about 80 private and chartered aircraft, while the Daytona 500 might draw 300.
“This is the smaller of the two big events we have in Daytona,” Weese said. Nonetheless, the July race brings a week of extra airport activity.
“We work very closely with TSA and the airport to insure safety and security,” he said.