StandardAero Adds "Invisible Escort"

Jennifer Bradley
Published in: 



Project: Virtual Security Escorts

Location:  StandardAero, Augusta (GA) Regional Airport

Facility Size: 170,000 sq. ft.

System: eEscort

Equipment Installed: April 2010

Cameras, Video Equipment & Card Access: Honeywell

Logistics: Visitors are tracked via radio frequency identification tags on ID badges instead of personally escorted.

Benefits: Saves employees' time; affords more privacy & freedom for visitors

Like airports, many aircraft repair centers have boosted security measures since 9/11. The StandardAero facility at Augusta Regional Airport in Georgia added a "virtual escort" program to its security network. 

The system uses radio frequency identification (RFID) - technology typically used to collect highway tolls or control vehicle access - to track visitors' movements in secure areas. The system largely eliminates the need to physically escort hundreds of owners and operators who visit the facility each year to monitor maintenance being performed on their aircraft. The change keeps employees focused on their primary duties and preserves visitors' privacy, explains Melissa Maddox, vice president of legal risk management for StandardAero.

"We believe the system is as effective as physical escorting, but is virtually invisible to the customer," relates Maddox.

No Off-the-Shelf Options

Finding a company to develop such a system turned out to be a daunting task. Mark Pickett of Abet Alliance introduced Maddox to

Security 101, a systems integration company that agreed to turn her design for a remote escorting system into a reality. Rob Nix, program manager for Security 101, describes the resulting product - eEscort - as a "virtual" escort system.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines previously required a physical escort or "line-of-sight" monitoring of visitors in many areas of the company's 170,000-square-foot facility in Augusta.

"Each time (owners) left the operations area, they would have to wait for an escort before reentering the area where their aircraft resided," recalls Maddox. "It was very cumbersome and unproductive for the facility as well as the customer."

Now, customers don a photo ID badge that includes an RFID tag, and a security officer located elsewhere monitors their movement in secure areas. The badges do not open doors to restricted areas, but they permit visitors to move freely otherwise. The new system also allows them to make phone calls without a StandardAero employee standing at their side.

In-person or line-of-sight escorting can be misinterpreted as an insult - especially by new customers, notes Nix.

The Fix

Security 101 installed a trio of Honeywell systems: cameras, an IP video surveillance system and MAXPRO VMS® and card access equipment. The company also installed the antennas needed to read RFID signals.

The new RFID tags act as "locating beacons" when badged visitors walk through the facility, explains Nix.

"It's not a simple surveillance system," qualifies Maddox. "Only those zones activated by the tag are monitored, so the security staff attention is focused to the areas requiring escort and not distracted by all activity."

According to Maddox, customers find the new RFID technology more welcoming than the previous escort system. "They feel their aircraft is more secure in our shop than in competitors' shops, but they are free to move about and work productively in the facility," she relates.

Customers are further comforted knowing that StandardAero has a response plan in place if suspicious activity is observed, she adds.

Tactically speaking, the company is using eEscort and other security measures as a competitive tool. "The customer gets the security benefit that a typical strict access controlled escorting program would provide, without the limitations of such a program," explains Maddox.

Eliminating the need for personal escorts paves the way for aircraft owners and operators to visit StandardAero more often, she adds.

Because it is owned by Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, StandardAero is required to follow more stringent federal security mandates than U.S. companies.

The Future

Although eEscort has been an overwhelmingly welcome addition to StandardAero's Augusta facility, initial plans to use the system at the company's 25 other repair centers have been suspended. According to Maddox, new federal security policies prompted the change. "TSA centralized (its) security threat assessment to allow customers who present a valid U.S. airport badge unescorted access to our facilities," she explains.

Maddox consequently established sponsorship programs with a variety of host airports to help customers complete the screenings necessary to receive such a badge.

"The airport knows the value of knowing who is on their property on a regular basis," she relates. "We benefit because we know the person is screened properly, and we can give them our customer badge."

Bearing in mind events such as the 9/11 attacks, Maddox understands security needs can change in a heartbeat. If the relationship with any airport changes, or rules are adjusted, the eEscort option would certainly be considered for additional locations - with the airport's consent, specifies Maddox. 

Given the security it provides and the freedom it allows customers, she considers the virtual escort system in Augusta a "win/win situation." 



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