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DIA tests prototype baggage screener

The Associated Press

DENVER — Denver International Airport is testing a $13 million prototype of what officials say is the nation’s most advanced automated system for screening checked baggage for explosives.

The system gives each bag the equivalent of a CT scan, deciding which ones need more examination.

The federal Transportation Security Administration provided three InVision Technologies CTX 9000 scanning machines for DIA.

Each cost $1 million, weighs 8 tons and can screen about 500 bags an hour.

“In our opinion, this is the most advanced system in the United States,” said Edward Cur-

rier, a DIA maintenance and engineering manager.

Boston’s Logan International Airport was the first major U.S. airport to fully automate screening of checked luggage.

Logan, from which two groups of hijackers took off on Sept. 11, 2001, reached the goal last year, said Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman.

The airport spent $150 million on the automated system, and the

TSA reimbursed Logan about $87 million, she said Tuesday.

So far, DIA’s automated system screens only bags checked at a certain bank of ticket counters.

Only charter flights use those ticket counters now, although American Airlines is expected to move its ticketing operation there in the coming weeks.

Diverted bags go to a station where TSA screeners conduct hand searches.

Just one-sixth of DIA’s bag-handling capacity has been converted to the automated system.

Elsewhere, workers still must manually feed each bag into a scanning machine or test it separately for traces of explosives.

Expanding the automated system to the rest of DIA will cost $95 million, Currier said. Expansion will depend on whether the TSA will pay 75 percent of the cost.

If that happens, it will take about 16 months to completely automate bag screening at DIA, Currier said.

A complete system will be capable of screening more than 10,000 checked bags an hour, about double DIA’s current peak demand.