TSA raises aviation security baseline in Kenya after decade-long project

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
TSAR Schwabel photo

Traveling just got a lot easier and more secure for passengers leaving from East Africa’s capital city Nairobi to the U.S.

TSA and the government of Kenya reached a major milestone when improvements to a passenger screening gate – that spanned more than 10 years – were completed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Group photo
TSA Transportation Security Specialist (TSS) Sean Creney, Program Analyst Steve Sciulli, TSS Lynn Dede, TSA Representative Peter Alexander, Program Analyst Linet Odera, TSA Regional Director Jason Schwabel, and TSSs Tera Bunton, Cynthia Yost and German Rivera celebrate the close of a ten-year long aviation security improvement project at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of International Operations)

TSA Regional Director for Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia Jason Schwabel was joined by TSA Representative (TSAR) for East Africa Peter Alexander, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Eric Kneedler, other key members of TSA and the Kenyan government, and aviation stakeholders in celebrating the momentous occasion at NBO. 

 “Today’s handover ceremony at Gate 19 celebrates the completion of a state-of-the-art screening checkpoint that increases security effectiveness and improves the passenger experience,” said Schwabel. “With the completion of this project, Kenya Airport Authority now operates one of the most technologically advanced gate screening checkpoints in the world.”

The decade-long project, which began as a Last Point of Departure (LPD) request, added modern screening technologies to NBO’s Gate 19 to create a checkpoint with world class security while making traveling more efficient for passengers boarding flights to the U.S.

“This project would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of TSARs Gary Seffel, Chris Coffey and Peter Alexander who spearheaded this project over the years,” said Schwabel. “In addition, this project could not have been successful without the cooperation and partnership with TSA Compliance, International Operations (IO), Policy Plans and Engagement (PPE) and the Federal Air Marshal Service counter man-portable air-defense systems program.”

NBO is the one of the more recent airports to receive LPD status in Africa. LPD is when an airline provides direct flights to the U.S. and its territories from a foreign airport.

Work toward attaining LPD status began when Delta Air Lines submitted a request in 2009 to have direct flights from NBO to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Briefing photo
TSA Transportation Sector Security Assistance Program Analyst Steven Sciulli briefs U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Eric Kneedler and others on the equipment functions. (Photo courtesy of International Operations)

The request was denied due to NBO’s potential security vulnerabilities and falling short of meeting International Civil Aviation Organization Annex 17 standards and recommended practices.

TSA leadership in IO, PPE, and Compliance launched a mentorship program with the government of Kenya and Kenya Airways that would eventually become a multi-year partnership to improve NBO’s aviation security baseline and lead the airport to achieving LPD status.

Five years later another LPD request was submitted by Kenya Airways, further encouraging TSA and Kenya to continue their efforts. The aviation security posture was significantly improved and LPD status was granted in late 2018.

A year later, TSA and agency partners donated Computed Tomography X-ray machines, Advanced Imaging Technology body scanners and explosive trace detectors to create an innovative passenger screening gate.

However, as so many things were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so were the upgrades to NBO’s Gate 19.

While the modernization portion was put on hold for 2020, technicians from Kenya flew to Arlington, Virginia this past summer, for a two-week training program to learn how to install, troubleshoot and maintain the screening equipment.

On Feb. 24, after more than two years, the screening technologies were removed from storage and placed into operation at NBO’s LPD Gate 19. TSA and Kenyan aviation security leadership held an official handover ceremony to mark the culmination of a decade’s worth of work and the successful aviation security partnership.

“This is a tremendous success story for the advancement of aviation security, and another example of how TSA works with foreign partners to improve aviation security,” said Schwabel.

By Ariana Diaz, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs