In the basement of Harrisburg International Airport, the facility’s baggage screening system operates on a conveyor belt, which processes luggage through a Transportation Security Administration security machine.
Officials say when the system was installed nearly two decades ago, it was state of the art.
“Though it has served us well that technology is now almost 20 years old and new screening systems are now available to scan customer baggage more efficiently to provide the most secure travel experience possible today,” said Tim Edwards, executive director with Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, which owns HIA.
The baggage screening system still works today but, there’s one big problem. Some replacement parts are no longer made.
“Over the past few years maintaining this nearly 20-year-old system has become increasingly difficult and many of the critical components have become obsolete,” said Ryan Kurtz, building automation specialist at Harrisburg International Airport. “With this grant, we’ll be able to modernize and upgrade this system to more than a thousand checked bags a day to continue to be efficiently and effectively screened for years to come.”
Because some of the parts for the baggage screening system are no longer manufactured the system needs to be replaced.
“We really have no other option,” Kurtz said.
He said there’s about a year’s left of spares of the photo-eyes if something happens. Photo eyes are little square boxes used for tracking luggage that shoot a beam across a conveyor and detect when a bag goes by. It’s used for tracking the bag through the entire process.
Baggage can run through the system on the green structure that is about three-fourths of a mile long in about three minutes, according to Scott Miller, deputy director of business development and marketing at HIA. If the system were to go down, employees would have to check luggage by hand, which would take a lot longer, officials say.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) recently announced a $5.5 million grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to upgrade the airport’s baggage screening system, including technology that identifies firearms and hazardous materials.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that we’ve got resources now that we’ve never had before, at least in my lifetime, to invest in airports, and not just safety in airports but just the basic infrastructure,” said Casey after touring the baggage screening system at the airport.
The project will include updating the baggage system controls network, user interfaces, tracking and recording functionality, and also will replace hundreds of motors, automatic tag readers and photo eyes with more efficient technology. There will be 356 photo eyes in the new system.
The goal is to have it completed in a year and a half, Miller said.
Normal operations will not be impacted during construction. Some work will be done during the day but certain sections can only be done when the system isn’t working, so Kurtz said much of the work will be done at night.
The airport’s baggage claim area will not be impacted by this project. The baggage claim area is for baggage that is coming into the airport that has already passed through security in other airports, while the baggage screening system is for outgoing luggage. TSA’s security machine won’t be impacted either.
Harrisburg International Airport is located at 510 Airport Drive in Lower Swatara Township near Middletown, about 15 minutes from downtown Harrisburg.
©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit pennlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.