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Exterior signs will show TIA flights

It will cost almost $1-million to install the three large flight display screens outside each of the four core elevator stations on the arrivals level.

By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2003

TAMPA - Lydia Simmons sat in her idling car outside the arrivals level on the red side of the Tampa International Airport terminal, waiting for her sister to come out from baggage claim.

Simmons' eyes flicked back and forth between the terminal doors and the traffic control officer who edged toward her car. He would tell her that she couldn't stay at the curb any longer.

"I know her plane was late leaving New York, but I don't know where it is now," said Simmons of Sarasota. "I guess I'll just keep circling until she gets here."

Because of security concerns, Simmons couldn't leave her car to go inside the terminal and check on the flight. The vehicle would have been towed. And she didn't want to pay the high price to park in the short-term lot and wait inside. So she circled, and she circled - nine times at last count.

By this time next year, frustrations like this will be no more. In a budget that will be presented to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority next month, there is a relatively small item - small being less than $1-million - that would fund up to three large flight arrival display screens outside each of the four core elevator stations on the arrivals level by next May.

Each screen will be able to display the status of up to eight arriving flights, so that potentially as many as 24 flights can be displayed at once. The cost will be $966,000.

"It's well worth it," said Louis Miller, executive director of the aviation authority. "We continually get heavy congestion on the arrivals drives. This way, a customer can see whether a flight is late, or if the parking control officers keep track, they can help out. Then people can decide where they want to wait, as long as it isn't at curbside."

The signs will use light-emitting diode displays and the letters and numbers will be 4 inches high, so they will be visible at a distance. They will be installed in weather-resistant housings.

The one glitch could be that the information screens outside, like those inside, will depend on the airlines for updating. And as anyone who uses TIA knows, airlines don't always stay on top of things.

"We're talking to them about that, and they're working on it," Miller said.

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