Solid Start for Dallas/Fort Worth Screening System

Screeners check luggage flagged by a new baggage system as possibly containing explosives.

The first 24 hours of operation of a vast, underground baggage-screening system at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's Terminal E 1.5 went without a hitch, officials said Monday.

The first section of the "inline" system -- in the Continental Airlines part of Terminal E -- worked "like a Swiss watch," said Bill Smith, inline system supervisor for the Transportation Security Administration.

The largely automated system was switched on Sunday morning. It features conveyor belts that whisk bags through bomb-detecting machines. Most bags will not have to be handled by human screeners.

The system makes bag processing quicker, improves security and is expected to save the government up to $35 million annually, said Robert Gentry, senior industrial engineer for the TSA.

With the exception of Terminal A, other sections of the system are scheduled to be turned on through August, said Jim Crites, D/FW's executive vice president of operations.

IN THE KNOW

Cost: $220 million ($185 million through federal grants, $35 million by D/FW)

Speed: Twice as fast as the present system

Bags processed: 55,000 a day

Automation: Conveyor belts carry bags from ticket counters to 13 screening areas in Terminals B, C, D and E that contain 47 explosive-detection machines and 104 explosive-trace-detection machines. Terminal B has a central monitoring room. Once bags are screened, conveyors carry them to loading areas, where they are put on planes.

History: U.S. airports sought better screening after terrorists used luggage to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Programs were accelerated after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. D/FW was the first U.S. airport to study and design a baggage-screening system and one of the first three U.S. airports to obtain a major federal grant to pay for construction of a system.

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