Security preparations taken ahead of inaugural commercial flights to Cuba

US marshals expected to be on some flights as precaution

By Hatzel Vela - Reporter

HAVANA - The first of the new commercial flights to Cuba will take off this week, and passengers can expect a number of security precautions during the inaugural flights.

Stephen Lloyd spent a lengthy career with the Federal Aviation Administration, first in air traffic control and most recently as a director of safety for the government agency.

"Cuba's got a long history in aviation," Lloyd said. "A lot of work had to go into the planning and preparation before they came into Cuba."

Airlines have been flying in and out of Cuba through charter companies since the 1980s.

"I know that there are experienced pilots that have been into those airports," Lloyd said.

Lloyd said representatives of the airlines, the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration and safety inspectors have all likely been to Cuba to scope out the setups and the airports.

"There are probably going to be some aviation safety inspectors on some of these flights," Lloyd said.

Some reports have revealed that travelers should expect U.S. marshals on some of the flights.

"(It) would not surprise me at all," Lloyd said. "I think it gives folks a sense of security."

Lloyd said the inaugural flights will be a learning experience for everyone. He said pilots will continue to pay attention to situational awareness, airport markings and lighting, and as a passenger, he said he likes to see screeners, x-ray machines and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Lloyd said airlines will keep a close eye on how air traffic control in Cuba manages flow in the long run, and data will be collected about the departure and arrival of flights.

It will also be determined how many delays passengers experience so airline officials can determine how much Cuba can handle.

"I think that they are poising themselves for a growth in the aviation industry," Lloyd said. "Obviously it's going to mean a lot to their economy."

  

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