DENVER — Just before the busiest travel time of the year, TSA is rolling out an upgraded baggage handling system at Denver International Airport that promises to be safer and more efficient.
The $160 million system is the first of its kind in the nation.
Before you start thinking about the disastrous DEN baggage debacle in the 1990s, Denver7 got a sneak peek of the new technology successfully in action, and TSA said the initial launch six weeks ago was "almost flawless."
After passengers check their bags at the ticket counter, the Checked Baggage Inspection System (CBIS) features a complicated network of conveyor belts that sort and track the luggage through the security screening process.
The bags first go through an Explosive Detection System that uses computed tomography to create a 3-D X-ray image of the contents of each checked bag, detecting potential security threats.
If a potential threat is found, the image is sent to a TSA officer for review.
If they determine a bag needs an in-person inspection, it goes to the now-upgraded portion of the Checked Baggage Inspection System: Automated carts, controlled by Bluetooth, that move up to 35 miles an hour.
The carts individually divert and transport flagged bags to a bag search room for in-person inspections.
"It's an improvement because it makes the system more efficient," said Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman, who explained that previously, diverted bags had to be hauled by tug carts to other X-rays. "We want to make sure that every bag makes it onto the flight. We don't want to be the part that slows things down. And these carts that the airport is invested in, help us be as effective and efficient as possible."
In addition to streamlining the process, TSA said the new carts will reduce injuries since TSA officers no longer have to lift or manually move heavy bags.
The new cart system was launched six weeks ago, and TSA Transportation Security Manager Mark Fluekiger said it has delivered as promised.
"I can't stress enough the night and day difference," said Fluekiger, who said the old system was noisy and in the old parking garage. "Everyone had had ear muffs or hearing protection, and you're yelling almost all day. This environment is quiet. It is filtered. It's heated is cooled. It's a much safer and better environment to be working in, and I'm relieved."