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DFW International airport opens first phase of world`s largest inline baggage screening system

DFW International Airport has begun operating the first phase of the Airport`s inline baggage system…

DFW International Airport has begun operating the first phase of the Airport`s inline baggage system, which will be the world`s largest automated baggage screening system when it is fully implemented. The inline baggage system is designed to screen all 55,000 bags checked every day at DFW, without forcing passengers to carry their bags to a separate screening location at the Airport.

DFW was the first major airport to study and design a comprehensive solution to the challenge of screening all baggage for explosives in a post 9/11 environment. And it was a DFW system proposal to the Transportation Security Administration that paved the way for the use of similar inline baggage systems nationwide.

Many of the security enhancements we`ve seen since 9/11 have added to the complexity of the traveling experience, said Jim Crites, executive vice president of operations at DFW. This system allows us to remove some of that complexity for the passenger, by allowing them to just drop off their bag at the airline ticket counter without taking part in any additional screening measures.

The first phase of the inline baggage system to open is located in Terminal E, and will screen the luggage checked in by Continental Airlines personnel. Eventually, the $220-million system will automatically screen all checked luggage in DFW`s five terminals, including the soon-to-be-opened International Terminal D. The system now under construction at DFW will include 13 separate screening areas located within Terminals B, C, D and E that contain a total of 47 explosive detection screening (EDS) machines and 104 explosive trace detection machines. A centralized baggage monitoring room is located in Terminal B where images from all 47 screening machines will be evaluated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Under the new system, checked bags are placed on a series of conveyor belts that automatically transport them to equipment used to scan for explosives. Travelers will be able to go directly to the TSA security checkpoint and their departure gate while their luggage is screened and moved to their flight.

We`re looking forward to fully implementing the system, said Jim Lair, Acting Federal Security Director of the Transportation Security Administration. The new inline construction means enhanced safety and increased customer service for everyone who travels by air, and it allows us to use state-of-the-art systems for all the baggage that comes through the airport.

The system at DFW is expected to save the TSA about $250-million over its first seven years of operation, according to a federal report published last month by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The savings include increased efficiency by transporting and screening bags automatically. The system will also allow the TSA to streamline operations by reducing the number of baggage screeners currently needed, and re-deploying current employees to checkpoints in the new International Terminal D and other high volume areas.

The new inline baggage system can screen bags more than twice as fast as the current operations in place, said Clay Paslay, executive vice president of airport development at DFW. In addition, the system reduces the number of bags opened for additional inspection, because these new state-of-the-art machines give screeners a clearer look inside the bags, and that prevents many false alarms.

The system is being deployed in phases, starting with Terminal E. Other segments of the system in Terminal E will go online later in the spring, along with screening systems in Terminals B and C. International Terminal D`s inline baggage system will be operational on the day the new Terminal opens in July. The inline baggage screening system for Terminal A, the final phase, is still awaiting the completion of contract and budgeting procedures, and has yet to begin construction.

The inline baggage system is part of a sweeping set of security enhancements mandated in the wake of the events of 9/11 by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. The system is being paid for by a combination of TSA appropriations funding, FAA grants and DFW International Airport.

Construction on the in line baggage system began in January 2004, and the phases currently underway are expected to be complete by August.