Aug. 27 marks 20 years since TSA federalized Pittsburgh International Airport. Today, the agency employs nearly 300 staff members at PIT. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

TSA Marks 20 Years of Protecting Passengers at PIT

Safety and security are the top priority at Pittsburgh International Airport, and a myriad of agencies protect the facility and its occupants 24 hours a day: county police, U.S. Customs officers, FBI agents, ACTS private security and more.

But nothing signifies that commitment more than the security checkpoints operated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

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Twenty years ago, on Aug. 27, 2002, PIT began its partnership with the TSA. The federal agency was launched on Nov. 19, 2001, with the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, a direct response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks two months earlier.

“Our workforce felt a personal connection to 9/11 because United Flight 93 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., which is only about 80 miles from Pittsburgh,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s federal security director for PIT.

“The federalization of Pittsburgh International Airport held special significance in thwarting possible future terrorist attacks and was extra meaningful to our workforce.”

At the time it was created, the agency employed about 100 people working at folding tables in the basement of Department of Transportation headquarters. Today there are about 430 federalized airports and a workforce of about 60,000 employees nationwide, with about 300 of them at PIT.

The first airport staffed by TSA was Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which marked the 20th anniversary of that moment in an April ceremony.

BWI served as a pilot for the design and operation of the now-commonplace checkpoints, which began rolling out across the country in the following months.

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Since then, TSA has introduced a wide array of state-of-the-art technologies to screen passengers, baggage and cargo, such as computed tomography, credential authentication technology and advanced imaging.

These advancements and others have greatly improved TSA’s detection and identity verification capabilities in ways the first TSA employees could have only imagined 20 years ago.

Some significant airports still contract with private security companies to screen passengers, including San Francisco, Kansas City and Key West. TSA allows airports to opt out of government screening as part of a plan that requires agency approval and alignment with federal guidelines.

At PIT, the agency’s role is a crucial one, and its partnership with local law enforcement agents and the airport’s operations and security teams is highly valued.

“Keeping our airport safe is a mission that we embrace every day, and it requires constant vigilance and communication,” said Travis McNichols, Chief Operations Officer at PIT. “Our partners at TSA share this dedication to protect our passengers and staff, and we are honored to work beside them at PIT.”

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