Juneau airport gets second scanner for checked baggage

Juneau airport baggage scanning machines

TSA Officer Noah Teshner guides a bag into the new CT scanner. The Alaska Airlines conveyor belt, left, runs to the original machine. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

TSA and Juneau airport officials hope the recently expanded screening system for checked baggage will reduce airline departure delays.

After numerous requests, federal funding was finally realized for a second machine at the Juneau International Airport, just in time for the arrival of Delta Airlines.

Delta’s daily summer flight between Juneau and Seattle adds another aircraft at the busiest time of the day, says deputy airport manager Marc Cheatham.

“There’s four aircraft in the morning from 6 o’clock to about 8 o’clock,” he says. “And adding on Delta’s aircraft, that’s five aircraft now. That’s a lot of bags to be going through one machine.”

The reconditioned second scanner cost about $330,000, according to TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. Both machines were made by Reveal Imaging Technologies, and use computer tomography (CT scan) to detect explosives and produce a 3D image.

“We know that not only today, but for several years, explosives remain the number one threat against aviation security. So all checked baggage must be screened,” Dankers says.

Bag exits CT scanner

A bag exits the new CT scanner. The scan produces a 3-D image, seen on a monitor (above left). An alarm sounds if the computer flags a bag as suspicious. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

If the scan flags a piece of luggage as suspicious, an alarm sounds and a TSA officer pulls it aside for additional screening.

“We’re going to go inside the bag and look specifically for an item that alarmed the machine,” says TSA officer Noah Teshner. “Once we’ve located that item, we’re going to run a test on it and ensure the item is permitted to go. And then we’re going to repack the bag and send it on its way.”

Teshner says TSA does not open luggage unless the alarm goes off.

At check-in, Alaska Airlines’ ticket agents put baggage on a conveyor belt that runs to the original CT scanner. The Delta desk doesn’t have conveyor access yet.

“Delta employees actually cart them in and put them up the rail and into the new CT,” Cheatham says.

With four aircraft departing in the morning, Alaska Airlines is also utilizing the second machine.

“They can have an employee here that sends it from the bag belt system to the new CT 80 and through it, so they can do a lot more bags much faster,” Cheatham says.

Delta’s seasonal service ends in September. He says Delta will likely not get its own conveyor belt system until the carrier comes back to Juneau next summer.

Even without it, he says, the new baggage screening equipment is expected to end the morning bottleneck.

“The delays for the aircrafts will be limited, hopefully,” Cheatham says.

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