Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Washington Post on the IAH rangers (+ IAH ranking)

I'm sure most locals have heard about the horseback ranger airport security program at Intercontinental by now, but it's always interesting to see national media articles about Houston, and this one has some interesting facts in it.
Airport Rangers Ride to the Rescue
Houston Group Formed After 9/11 Patrols Woods Around Bush Intercontinental

This threat was deemed to be credible: Some storage tanks on the west side of the sprawling George Bush Intercontinental Airport might be targeted by terrorists. Who you gonna call?

The Airport Rangers, a group of vetted urban cowpokes and their trusty horses.

The SWAT team, they're not. The Special Forces, they aren't. Armed? Not unless you count a cellphone. But they've passed background checks, they're trained, they're badged, and they patrol the perimeter of Houston's largest airport looking for anything unusual, including, maybe, al-Qaeda terrorists.


The mounted volunteer force began patrolling the perimeter of Bush Intercontinental in December 2003. Since then, the program has grown to 800 riders, nearly 70 percent of them women in their forties.

(Single older gentlemen take note: real cowgirl dating opportunities here.)

The Houston airport is installing a sophisticated $3.5 million intrusion detection system that is capable of tracking ground-based moving targets, such as missiles. In the meantime, its homespun patrol program cost $50,000. The budget paid for the background checks and badges for volunteers, and for cutting 50 miles of rough trails through the heavily wooded perimeter of the 12,000-acre airport.


There have been no terrorist sightings. But there have been many discoveries of deer poachers, all-terrain vehicle joy-riders, target shooters (!), bikers, homeless campers, aviation enthusiasts and one suspicious character who turned out to be driving a stolen car. All were trespassing on airport property; all were reported to authorities. Rangers have also reported damaged fences along the airport perimeter and the dumping of hazardous waste.


"There are a lot of things about Houston that might make us a target -- the port, all the refineries. Our airport is George Bush Intercontinental," Green said. "I'm not a vigilante type of person. . . . But if I can enjoy riding my horse and I think I'm making a difference, that works for me."

Deer poachers and target shooters? Two thoughts here:
  1. I don't know about you, but I don't get a warm fuzzy feeling of safety knowing unauthorized people with rifles are wandering around runways. Bullets and pressurized airplanes don't seem like such a good mix.
  2. In a post-9/11 world, what kind of moron brings a weapon onto airport property?
On a tangential note, 2005 airport stats are out and IAH came in 9th-busiest in the nation (7th largest international gateway) and 17th busiest in the world with almost 40 million passengers. The Big Four in the U.S. are Atlanta, Chicago, LAX, and DFW (from 85 to 59m), and we're clustered pretty close together with the next four: Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, and JFK (all in the 40-44m range). Our growth is ahead of all of them though, at 8.8% year over year, and we have the potential to move into 5th place nationally over the next few years - especially since Vegas is maxing out their small airport. The forecast is for IAH+Hobby to hit 80m by 2025 from 48m today - essentially funnelling almost our entire metro through the airports every month. Pretty staggering when you think about it.


At 9:03 PM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Article: ...70 percent of them women in their forties.

Tory: (Single older gentlemen take note: real cowgirl dating opportunities here.)

Single women in their forties who like to ride horses? I think the opportunities you speak of might instead lie with the single lesbian women out there...

At 10:55 AM, March 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, it was a joke.

"Bigotted" implies intolerance. I am not intolerant. "Insensitive" would have been a better choice in your complaint.

At 9:02 AM, April 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually most of us "women in our forties" rangers are already married and have children.

If you're not a serious horse man, don't even bother... We'd just ride you into the ground!


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