After 2006 chase, D/FW beefed up outer area safety measures

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on August 20, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 20 at 9:39 PM

DALLAS - Concern is growing over over safety at airports after Thursday's police chase across the runways at Dallas Love Field.

When it comes to airport security, most passengers think of the terminal. But, there are miles of land surrounding the airport that are just as much a target and even less secure, according to critics.

WFAA viewers watched Thursday afternoon after a chase between Dallas police and a carjacking suspect ended just off a runway in Dallas Love Field. The suspect crashed a stolen truck through a chain-link fence before racing across an active tarmac.

But, it's happened before, including at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

In 2006, three men in a car drove off road as they were chased by police and through a fence at D/FW. They stopped within feet of two runways. Immediately after, the airport admitted a security mistake.

"There's no denying that," said Jim Crites, airport security. "That's why we're going out there to aggressively shore up these barriers."

And since 9/11, D/FW has spent more than $10 million beefing up security around its runways.

Now, all 35 miles of fence have a backup layer of either cables or pillars that are strong enough to stop a speeding car.

"We've hardened our perimeter even more by putting in reinforcements all around the perimeter so we can prevent these type of accidental or unintentional breaches," said David Magana, airport security.

At the gates, D/FW officials say what happened at Love Field is not supposed to happen at their airport.

All the entrances have concrete or metal barriers.

"The entry gates are reinforced, all have some type of barrier," Magana said.

Love Field, however, is like many airports that use a chain-link fence and warning signs to protect runways. It's all that's required, but critics say its simply not enough..

"What if he was really a terrorist and he had a car of explosives or he had two or three other guys with him who had automatic weapons," said Denny Kelly, an aviation expert, of Thursday's suspect. "... The potential is unbelievable."

The city says it cannot and will not comment on security measures or changes until its safety review is complete. The federal guidelines say each airport is required to secure the area where there are planes.

E-mail: jbetz@wfaa.com

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