WRPA confirms talks that TSA may remove equipment from airport

VIENNA — There have been discussions between the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and the Transportation Security Administration regarding removing some or all of the security screening equipment at the airport.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, confirmed the talks have taken place for about a year.

Responding to unconfirmed reports that the airport's security systems were already earmarked to be removed, Moliterno said Monday such conversations, which have taken place three to four times over the past year and focus on the likelihood that screening equipment currently at Youngstown will be moved to an airport where it is needed more if Youngstown does not acquire an airline.

There have been few commercial flights at the airport since Allegiant Air ended its service between Youngstown to Florida vacation destinations in January 2018 after 11 years here.

Moliterno said there has been no date set for removal of the equipment, and it is all still here.

Moliterno has been in charge of airport operations since its last director of aviation, Dan Dickten, resigned last April. He has been executive director since July 2015.

He said the TSA moves equipment from place to place depending on where it is needed. For instance, the full-body scanners at Youngstown were installed there and then moved to another location and then brought back.

"The TSA has been very gracious about leaving the equipment there, knowing that we are trying to get new service," Moliterno said.

He noted that air service can still take place without screening equipment because there are other options for screening passengers. For instance, passengers on charters or private planes can be screened by private security companies.

A charter flight left from Youngstown last weekend, and TSA personnel were here to handle the screening, Moliterno said. The airport has another charter flight in a couple of weeks, he added. The airport also houses private/corporate aircraft that use the airport's runways.

TSA agents still report to Youngstown every morning and then are assigned to duties in Cleveland or Akron-Canton, Moliterno said. He doesn't know how long that will continue. He said he believes that is also likely to change if the airport does not get new airline service.

Moliterno said he continues to talk to airlines about restoring passenger service to Youngstown, and he will meet this week with executives from one airline he would not identify. The airport also has delivered a proposal to an airline. He would not discuss whether those proposals involve the same airline or two.

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