When Boeing Integrated Defense Systems was awarded the mammoth project of providing all the nation’s airports with baggage explosives screening equipment by the end of 2002, it sought partners in small and minority enterprises. It hoped to find an electrical contractor to oversee the electrical for the screening devices in more than 400 airports, all in about three months.
After all, it is often the electrical contractor who can make that kind of commitment and “connection.” Lloyd Electric in Wichita Falls, Texas, could do both. The company employs about 60 electricians and has a reputation for providing goodwill to others and community service locally and even abroad. Its electricians were in Jamaica to help rewire the island after Hurricane Gilbert flattened part of it in 1988, and again one year later to restore power after Hurricane Hugo. Company owner Robert “Bobby” Lloyd is a Vietnam veteran and former Marine. When there is an urgent job, even of one of mammoth proportions, Lloyd is the go-to electrical contractor.
Turner Construction Co., New York, teamed up with Boeing on the largest and fastest airport security installations of any time—and recommended Lloyd Electric to oversee the electric wiring.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, based in St. Louis, was awarded a $508 million contract by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The task was to install the explosive detection systems in more than 400 airports to comply with the U.S. Congress mandate for screening 100 percent of checked baggage for explosives by Jan. 1, 2003.
Boeing first interviewed Bobby Lloyd in June and awarded the contract in July 2002. From there, Lloyd Electric had a little more than three months to work with Boeing to install complete baggage security systems in more than 400 airports nationwide.
EDS vs. EDT
The first thing to be decided was the equipment specifications and which airport would get what. Based on their size, airports use one of two baggage security systems. The Explosives Detection System (EDS) is a CAT-scan sized machine that weighs three times as much as one. It X-rays bags and identifies any weapons or explosives before the bag enters the airplane cargo area. The machines are in use in all large American airports.
Some airports needed to install Explosives Trace Detection (ETD), which operates by detecting traces of explosive material on the zippers of luggage when swabbed by a cloth. In all, Boeing needed to install 7,000 ETDs and 1,000 EDSs.
The project began by identifying which airports were going to need the most planning. About 30 to 40 percent of the airports were in need of greater power capacity, either because they were small airports unprepared to deal with the addition of multiple 220 to 480V machines, or because they did not want to give up the surplus power capacity they were reserving for future expansion. In these cases, new service panels had to be added before any other work could proceed.
For some airports, the placement of the machines was a major obstacle. Most did not have the time to construct a permanent site where the baggage scanning could be done most appropriately, usually close to where the luggage is loaded onto the plane. Instead, the devices needed to be installed in the lobby, usually behind the ticket counter of each ticket check-in for each airline. That would mean moving ticket counters and other lobby items to make room. Some airports needed only a few small devices, while others, such as John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, needed devices in all eight terminals.
And the airports had their own challenges. Not only did they have to find temporary space for the devices by the December deadline, they would have to start preparing a permanent home for the machines in the future. They needed to coordinate the electricians with Siemens Corp., the machine manufacturer, and finally, the baggage operators, who would need to be proficient by the time the deadline arrived.
Finding the right location for temporary machine sites required flexibility on the part of the airports. For Alaska’s Anchorage Airport, for example, that meant housing the machines in an outbuilding adjacent to the airport and taking the bags out the building to be scanned, then back in again and sorted for flights.
To undertake all this, Lloyd established a national project manager as well as six regional managers and hundreds of individual project managers. They located 400 subcontractors and 7,000 electricians, nearly all IBEW members.
Each airport required security badges of all contractors. Lloyd attempted to hire electricians who already had badges (those who had done airport work there previously), but for the thousands who did not have badges, a paperwork nightmare erupted. Each electrician needed a criminal background check. Project managers and even Lloyd himself needed a separate badge for each airport. “I went to LAX in Los Angeles and got the badge there,” he recalled. He continued on to Hartsfield Jackson-Atlanta Airport where he was told he needed to reapply for a badge. Some regional project managers wore multiple badges.
Once badged, electricians needed to adjust each job to the requirements of the individual airport and the airport supervisor. All the machines required power as well as data lines and connections between multiple machines. The work had to be done mostly at night, when they could safely move the ticket counters and work without disrupting the flow of passengers. “We would have to wait until the last flight went out,” Lloyd said, “then work until the earliest flight was scheduled the next morning.” Usually they worked on four or five ticket counters at a time, keeping the rest available. This task was more difficult in the larger airports where they needed to schedule their work with each airline.
Lloyd scheduled the smaller, simpler jobs first while Boeing’s architectural contractors determined how to lay out the major airports. Once on the job, the electricians generally were in a race against time, trying to get the job done in a few days when possible, or a few weeks or even months in the larger airports. Lloyd recalled finishing the Atlanta airport in about two weeks. Often project managers opted to skip the luxury of a night’s sleep in an airport hotel, and instead caught a few winks in their vehicle in the airport parking lot to be better prepared to return to work. “I had guys operating on very little sleep,” Lloyd said. “At any one time, working was going on in 100 to 200 airports,” he said.
For each baggage screening device, Siemens brought the equipment on site and set it up, while Turner undertook the construction and then the electrical contractors could begin the wiring. As soon as electricians were done, baggage operators began training on the machines.
The work was due to be completed by New Year’s Day, 2003. That meant many workers stayed on the job through Christmas Day. New Year’s Eve found electricians still working until midnight in dozens of airports.
GMA Electrical Corp., in Staten Island, helped install the screening machines at JFK Airport in New York. Superintendent John Reilly and his crew of about 20 to 25 had only a few weeks to install the five machines in each of eight terminals. “The job wasn’t released until the first of December,” he recalled, and that gave them less than a month through the holiday season to get the work done in one of the nation’s largest airports. “There was a manpower shortage at the time,” he said, one that was further aggravated by the holiday season. Regardless, in that small window of time they had to organize their nights working in the seven-hour window between the last flight at night and the first in the morning.
To work at night, Reilly and foreman John Modafferi also had to schedule equipment deliveries at night, and work with the limited airport staff available during those hours. Because the Port Authority did not authorize issuing security badges, GMA hired escorts to allow them access to the airport. “That meant if anyone had to go to the bathroom ... everyone had to go,” Reilly said.
“From a productivity standpoint (working night hours) was really tough,” Reilly said. However, GMA met the deadline and continued on with the permanent installation of baggage screening devices in 2003.
Lloyd extends much of the credit for accomplishing the job to subcontractors like GMA as well as to Boeing. “My hat is off to Boeing. They had a monster effort.” Part of Boeing’s challenge was to schedule time for Siemens to get the machines started and baggage handlers trained before the deadline as well.
Since that time, airports have been working with electrical subcontractors to move their baggage screening devices to a more permanent location, usually out of the heavy traffic of the airport lobby. EC