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GRAEF and GMIA win AFE Project of the Year Award

Baggage Screening Improvements Winning Challenge for Engineers

The events of 9-11 changed air travel and screening procedures forever forward. Baggage screening needed to be implemented quickly in airports throughout the country. As required, GMIA added EDS (Explosive Detection System) machines to their ticketing lobby to screen checked luggage brought to the airport by passengers. The screening process was been managed manually using TSA staff.

In 2009, the airport undertook a $28 million project upgrade of the existing baggage screening system. The newly installed system is an automated, in-line baggage handling system (BHS) that allowed for the removal of the EDS machines in the GMIA ticketing lobby. The EDS machines were replaced with an automated, “back of the house” in-line system located in a new building addition specially designed to accommodate the upgraded equipment.

In June of 2014, the new system became fully operational with a conveyor belt behind the ticket counter that now takes the bags to a 24,000-square-foot Baggage Handling System (BHS)/Matrix addition on the secured side of the airport. In the BHS building, the bags are screened by one of four new automated EDS machines that can each handle up to 750 bags per hour.

The GMIA improvements were not without challenges, including both design and construction obstacles.  The project’s final cost was approximately $4 million under the original budget. Removing the EDS machines from the ticketing lobby area allows the airport to cue airline passengers in a much more orderly manner. When located in such a public space, the machines intruded on passenger flow to the counters. An added benefit is that the additional ticket counter space previously obstructed by scanners can now be leased out to airlines.

The most measurable result of constructing an In-line Baggage Screening Matrix is the overall reduction of TSA personal screening bags. Coupled with a lower injury rate, these in-line systems dramatically reduce labor costs.The screening building addition has let the airport use the ticket lobby for that which it was designed — getting passengers to their destinations in a more pleasant manner. Not having to lug bags over to the ticket lobby scanners is priceless! Bags are processed in a more efficient manner while reducing the passenger stress.

At a January 15, 2015 banquet, the project team was recognized for their hard work and ingenuity. GRAEF was proud to work with the TSA, staff at General Mitchell International Airport, and baggage handling design specialists, Vic Thompson Company. Congratulations to all on a job well done!

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