Sea-Tac travelers delayed

The Associated Press

SEATAC — An unplugged metal detector sparked a partial evacuation of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and delayed travelers for hours Saturday.

Hundreds of travelers crowded the main terminal for hours waiting to be rechecked after all concourses and satellites were cleared at about 9 a.m. The areas were reopened by noon, but crowding continued.

About 100 flights were delayed or otherwise affected, said airport spokesman Bob Parker.

One TWA jet already in flight was called back. Eight to 10 airborne United Airlines jets were allowed to proceed, but passengers were rescreened upon landing.

The incident began about 8 a.m. when a National Guardsman standing watch at the airport’s north checkpoint noticed that one of the archway metal detectors was not functioning, said Mike Fergus of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The metal detector’s plug had come loose in its socket on the airport floor "for a period of about 15 minutes, as far as we can tell," said Jack Evans, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines, which operates the checkpoint.

"Our hats are off to the National Guardsmen. They’re not just window dressing; they’re paying attention to what’s going on," Fergus said.

Hundreds of people gathered in the main terminal after all four concourses and both satellites were evacuated about 9 a.m. Saturday.

The C and D concourses and north satellite were reopened about two hours later, and the remaining A and B concourses and south satellite reopened about noon.

"We’re getting back to normal operations, but we still have large crowds to move," Parker said. He added that the crowds were calm.

An unknown number of people had crossed through the north security checkpoint, operated by Alaska Airlines, before the malfunction was detected, Parker said.

The detector at issue is used for crew, employees, passengers with no carry-on bags, and "elite status" frequent flyers, who are the airline’s most frequent travelers, Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Evans said.

The checkpoint is run by Huntleigh USA Corp. of St. Louis, which provides security at numerous airports. A company manager at SeaTac would not comment Saturday.

Areas past the checkpoint — C and D concourses and the north satellite — were evacuated once the problem was discovered, Parker said. Security people with bomb-sniffing dogs checked the areas.

The Federal Aviation Administration was concerned that someone could reach other areas as well, he said, so the A and B concourses and the south satellite were also evacuated.

The outside drive for people arriving for flights was blocked off, Parker said, so overflow crowds could be moved there and so National Guard members and police usually stationed there could help inside the airport.

Passengers already on jets had to return for rescreening, said Fergus of the FAA. One TWA flight was recalled and eight to 10 United Airlines flights proceeded to their destinations, with authorities at their destinations notified that passengers needed to be rescreened on arrival.

Jets were allowed to land during the difficulty, but passengers stayed on board, Parker said. An unknown number of flights were delayed as airlines waited for the passengers to clear security again.

Last week, the airport was shut down for two hours when a food service worker went through a Northwest Airlines checkpoint after being asked to stop. About 7,000 passengers on 50 flights were delayed after the woman scooted onto a train from the main terminal to the south satellite terminal. She was stopped shortly afterward and nothing illegal was found.

After that incident, a Huntleigh duty manager and supervisor were suspended, said a spokeswoman for Northwest Airlines.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

April Berg, left, and John Lovick
Snohomish County legislators talk race, policy in Seattle

Rep. April Berg and Sen. John Lovick chatted about Tyre Nichols and education at an event kicking off Black History Month.

Tala Davey-Wraight, 3, is thrown in the air by her dad Oscar Davey-Wraight, one of the Summer Meltdown headliners also known as Opiuo, during Cory Wong’s set on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After Monroe debut, no Summer Meltdown music fest in 2023

Organizers announced Wednesday they would “take the year off in order to figure out the best path forward for Summer Meltdown in 2024.”

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
High winds in Everett, north Puget Sound expected Friday

Winds could top 40 mph in Everett — and likely higher farther north — causing power outages and tree damage.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace council taps planning commissioner for open seat

With five votes, Rory Paine-Donovan was affirmed to join the ranks of the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office) 20201223
Leader of Snohomish County fentanyl, meth ring gets federal prison

A search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington unearthed kilos of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Karla Wislon holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, Ca. on May 14, 2021. (Family photo)
Former state Rep. Karla Wilson, 88, remembered as ‘smart, energetic’

Wilson served the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991. She died Dec. 31.

Most Read