World and Nation

Port authority fined for lapses in airport rescue, fire safety training

NEW YORK — The operator of the major airports in the New York metropolitan region has agreed to pay $3.5 million for failing to train its police officers to perform rescues and fight fires, under a settlement agreement announced Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Along with the fine, the aviation agency ordered the operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to create cadres of aircraft rescue and firefighting officers to operate independently of the authority’s Police Department. At four airports in and around New York City — Kennedy International, La Guardia, Newark Liberty International and the smaller Teterboro — the chief of the Port Authority Police Department had overseen those functions.

The officers in those units will work 12-hour shifts and will not have to perform other police functions, according to the settlement agreement between the Port Authority and the aviation administration. Ray LaHood, the federal transportation secretary, called the violations “egregious.”

Michael P. Huerta, the FAA administrator, said, “We expect the Port Authority to have trained safety personnel to ensure the safety of the traveling public and airport personnel, just like we have at all airports in the Unite States.”

To satisfy federal officials, the Port Authority hired a former first deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, Joseph P. Dunne, as its chief security officer last year, and has begun a “nationwide search for a new fire chief and fire captains,” said Lisa MacSpadden, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority. The Port Authority also hired Thomas Von Essen, a former city fire commissioner, to review the operations, she said.

The aviation administration did not point to any specific problems caused by the lack of training at the airports. But it said in the settlement that on most days between Jan. 1, 2011, and June 9, 2012, the Port Authority failed to ensure that all rescue and firefighting personnel at La Guardia and Newark Airports were properly trained for their duties.

At Kennedy Airport, the Port Authority allowed 77 police officers who were untrained for their duties to work 357 shifts from early May to early June 2012, the settlement agreement said.

The aviation administration said it became aware of the violations during a safety inspection at Kennedy in December 2011. After finding similar problems at Teterboro, which the Port Authority operates in New Jersey, the administration looked into safety procedures at La Guardia, Newark and Stewart International.