ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- News 4 is giving you an inside look at Lambert International Airport, diving into everything from the security checkpoint to what happens to your checked bag.
Inside the flight deck: A day in the life of the pilot
News 4 spoke to Dale Williams, who has been a pilot at Southwest for 18 years.
At Southwest, there’s a captain and a first officer in the flight deck together.
“The non-flying pilot’s doing a lot of the flight control while the other pilot’s busy flying,” Williams explained, adding that the two rotate between flights.
Like many jobs at the airport, Williams said the biggest issue they deal with is weather.
“A big percentage of our job is dealing with weather issues,” he said.
Aside from weather, the stress also comes from delays.
“We want to get people delivered safely and on time and comfortably of course. So, I think the stress sometimes for us is that when we have delays and it's out of our hands,” Williams said.
Asked if there’s something about the job that surprises people to hear, Williams replied, “in all honesty probably the ease of it.”
He said his job as a pilot is a “dream come true.”
“If it wasn’t the NFL, it’s flying airplanes,” Williams told News 4.
How do airline workers make sure your flight gets out on time?
We are in the middle of a busy summer travel season, so it’s important to many to have their flight on time.
At Southwest, several employees play a critical role in making that happen, some even starting their day while many are still sleeping.
“Day starts early, 2:30 a.m.” Jim Landwehr, Southwest Customer Service Supervisor told News 4. “As soon as you come to the airport, it seems like you’re on the clock.”
As the customer service supervisor, Landwehr oversees what happens at the ticket counter. He then passes the baton to the operations manager, who handles what happens after security.
“I definitely am the quarterback of the flight,” Natassia Apela, Southwest Operations Agent tells News 4. “We are responsible for the number of passengers, the bags and the fuel. We have to make sure that those numbers all match up so we’re able to push our plane out safety and accurately.”
While travelers are waiting to board, flight attendants are prepping the plane. At Southwest, there’s about a 35 minute turnaround time in between flights.
Employees say the biggest challenge is the weather because it can cause “really significant delays.”
But, if all goes according to plan, flights will push back exactly on time.
What happens to your bag after you check it?
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or rarely go to Lambert, we all put a lot of trust in the airline we choose to not only keep us safe but to make sure our luggage is secure.
After you check your bag at the ticket counter, it goes down to the baggage screening area. There, every bag at Lambert goes through a conveyor belt where explosive detection technology is used.
“We make sure that there’s nothing inside of them that could have a negative effect on an airplane,” Jim Spriggs, TSA Federal Security Director for Missouri, told News 4.
If your bag is flagged, then it will be checked by a real person. While technology is always improving, Sprigg said humans are important to the operation.
“We’ll always need someone to interpret items to make decisions about whether or not that item is secure. I don’t visualize, at least in the short term, an operation where automation takes over,” he said.
If your bag is cleared, it will continue down to the tarmac area where every bag is sorted according to flight. From there, it’s loaded into the cargo area of the plane before your flight takes off.
Behind the scenes of the security check points
In terms of security, the process starts long before you enter the front doors of the airport.
“You can’t even print your boarding pass until you provide your information and we run it against a series of checks and we make sure you’re safe to travel,” Jim Spriggs, TSA Federal Security Director for Missouri, told News 4.
Body scanners, X-ray machines and K-9s also play an important role in safety. Body scanners use “advanced image technology” which is used to “identify any potential threat items or things that people could possibly try to hide on their body,” Duane Huelsmann, Assistant Federal Security Director for Screening, explained.
“They go through the scanner, hold their hands up for a couple seconds, and we have a generic image that shows where there’s any potential threat items,” Huelsmann said.
There’s also a coordination center in the airport where there are eyes on everything and everyone. In fact, security doesn’t stop until you physically leave airport property.
“We get communication from other entities, from our headquarters group, about those individuals that are coming through with potential or risks,” Jason Hoban, TSA manager explained. “We’re able to take a look at those individuals and watch them as they go through the process. We’re able to look for any discrepancies in behavior. We’re able to watch what we need to watch to make sure that individual gets through appropriately.”