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November 2, 2006


Firms vie for airport program
Registered traveler plan would speed certain passengers through security checkpoints

By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
Hearst Times Union
First published: Thursday, October 5, 2006

COLONIE -- Two companies have submitted proposals to operate Albany International Airport's registered traveler program, officials said Wednesday.

The two -- Verified Identity Pass Inc. of New York City and Saflink Corp. of Kirkland, Wash. -- are expected to make presentations to the Albany County Airport Authority. The board likely would choose the vendor at its November meeting, said John O'Donnell, the airport authority's chief executive officer.

The Transportation Security Administration is still drawing up specifications for the program and hasn't yet certified the providers, said Luke Thomas, vice president for the registered traveler program at Saflink.

Once that's done, however, Thomas said the program could move ahead quickly.

The identification cards that participants will use to go through a dedicated security checkpoint at the airport will contain biometric information such as fingerprints or iris scans, and will be compatible with competing vendors' systems.

Participants also will have gone through a background check by the TSA, Thomas said.

Paul Varville, federal security director for the TSA at Albany International Airport, said he hopes the program could be in operation by early next year.

The intent of the program is to reduce security delays and hassles for frequent travelers.

An annual fee in the $100 range would be charged, although Thomas said Saflink might also provide premium services for an additional fee that could range from limousine service discounts to airport parking benefits.

Albany International is one of about 20 airports that the TSA chose to participate in the pilot. The program was first announced Aug. 4 during a visit to the airport by U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican who heads the House aviation subcommittee. He was joined by U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park.

Also on Wednesday, officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Eclipse Aviation Northeast service center at the airport. Site work is already well under way for the $7.2 million building, which will cover an acre of space. Completion is expected in mid-2007.

The airport authority is building the structure and will lease it to Eclipse, which will service its very-light jet, the Eclipse 500, there. The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday gave the jet full certification.

O'Donnell said airport officials also are talking to Adam Aircraft Industries, which is developing a competing very-light jet, the A700, about basing a service center at Albany.

Air taxi companies have been ordering the very-light jets, which carry five to seven people. The jets will be able to fly business travelers nonstop to smaller airports that don't have scheduled air service.

"Albany was selected over several other locations in the Northeast to house (the Eclipse) facility, positioning the Capital Region to be an important destination for the operators who fly these planes and the customers who use them for air-taxi services," state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said in prepared remarks.

Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at


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