Innovation in Airport Security Systems

Bob Pollard
U.S. airports screen over a billion bags each year, a complex and highly visible national security activity.

Screening has been at the heart of baggage handling systems since 2001, adding explosives detection systems (EDS) to state-of-the-art technologies that include sorting, conveying, tracking systems, bag storage and retrieval. Twelve years later, U.S. airports face the challenge of upgrading and implementing new technologies, while reducing their system costs and maintaining the highest security levels.

Upgrades may involve an entirely new facility, the expansion of existing systems, or exploration of maintenance and operation. Design, manufacture, assembly and commissioning of baggage installation are specialist areas that need informed program, project and cost management. Faithful+Gould is currently providing this support on some interesting baggage handling commissions.

...U.S. airports face the challenge of upgrading and implementing new technologies, while reducing their system costs and maintaining the highest security levels.

We are working alongside the International Association of Baggage System Companies (IABSC), a body which provides a unified voice to the aviation industry, bringing standards, education, innovation, quality and economic benefits. Together we are collaborating with a group of baggage handling system designers and suppliers to improve efficiency and safety in airport baggage make-up rooms (post-screening holding area). The current emergency stop design has been in use for over 40 years and we believe there may be a more flexible and cost effective solution, using software rather than hard wiring, and still meeting national and local safety codes. We aim to reach a consensus on a design suitable for all baggage handling system specifications.

We are also working with the IABSC and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to update the TSA Planning Guidelines and Design Standards (PGDS). The guidelines provide a standard requirement for security screening systems design across the U.S., shaping the design for baggage handling systems and incorporating an automated in-line screening system for checked baggage. Updating this standard requires input from the airline/airport operators of existing baggage systems and from the TSA's technology experts. Our joint recommendations will be presented to the TSA by spring 2014.

Design, manufacture, assembly and commissioning of baggage installation are specialist areas that need informed program, project and cost management.

The 2002 Aviation and Transportation Security Act required all checked baggage to be electronically screened for explosives. To comply, airports around the country commissioned designers to provide fully automated baggage screening solutions which could be quickly implemented. Some of the 2002 systems are now reaching the end of their design life.

In 2011, TSA shifted its focus to replacing aging machines (recapitalization), optimizing the equipment to meet current PGDS standards and increasing bag screening throughput. This recapitalization and optimization program requires close collaboration between TSA headquarters, local TSA staff, airports, airlines, baggage system designers and suppliers.

We have partnered with architects, consultants and engineering firms since 2005 to provide aviation experts for site lead positions to coordinate the installation and testing of EDS machines.

Faithful+Gould has specific experience in this area. We managed a 30-month, $55m exemplary redevelopment program in Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport, modifying the conveyor system to accept 10 new explosive detection systems machines. The baggage systems are complex and in 24-hour use. The terminal has a period of three hours after midnight when only a few planes depart, so most of the 25-plus mechanical and electrical tie-ins were scheduled at this time. Mitigation plans were put into place for the manual conveyance of baggage or an alternative conveyor, during the works.

Similar programs will handle recapitalization and optimization at other U.S. airports, with security systems designers and suppliers following the JFK Terminal 4 model. They will conduct detailed pre-installation surveys of existing equipment and software (including any changes made since as-built documentation was developed);pre-install as much equipment as possible prior to the tie in, and, most importantly, have a contingency plan for bag conveyance without adverse operational impacts to terminal operators, airlines or passengers.

We understand the complexities of working in live, operational, business critical airports.

Faithful+Gould is playing a major role in these efforts, working with several U.S. airports. We have partnered with architects, consultants and engineering firms since 2005 to provide aviation experts for site lead positions to coordinate the installation and testing of EDS machines.

We understand the complexities of working in live, operational, business critical airports. We provide program management services for cost control and schedule management during the design, manufacturing, installation, commissioning and testing of large, automated inline security screening baggage systems. These services combine to achieve best value for our clients.

Written by