Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) recently wrapped up the installation of an inline baggage screening system in Terminal 3, part of a six-year program to enhance baggage handling and security at the Florida facility
For some airports, replacing baggage screening and handling equipment proves to be a time-consuming, complex and cumbersome project that can disrupt airline operations. FLL, however, found that it could speed up the project process and facilitate ongoing operations by letting airlines take the lead.
Project: New Inline Baggage Screening Systems
Location: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FL) Int'l Airport
Terminals: 1, 2 & 3
Cost: $160 million
Funding: TSA ($80.5 million); Broward County Aviation Dept. ($79.5 million)
Design Criteria Packages/Owners Rep: Gresham, Smith and Partners/CAGE (Baggage Handling System/Checked Bag Inspection System)
Terminal 1 Experience
When FLL began planning its Terminal 1 baggage system replacement back in 2009, Southwest Airlines approached the Broward County Aviation Department about taking the lead in the construction process. Southwest had recently completed an inline project at another airport, explains Marc Gambrill, director of Capital Improvement Projects for the county department. Since it was the carrier's baggage system that was being replaced, so the thinking went, why not allow Southwest to take charge of the construction process?
Taking a design-bid-build approach, the department provided Southwest with design and construction documents for the project; and the airline hired Whiting-Turner as its general contractor. When additional design services were needed, Southwest hired De Los Reyes Engineering and converted Whiting-Turner's construction contract to a design-build contract so GRAEF could be hired to complete the design. VTC served as the quality assurance/quality control representatives for the baggage handling system/checked baggage inspection system during installation through commissioning. VTC also assisted Southwest during the design process by providing design reviews and recommendations.
Denise McElroy, senior manager of Corporate Facilities for Southwest, reflects on the pivotal nature of such projects: "Baggage handling is right at the heart of our operations. So if we can control construction and scheduling, we can better manage the impact on our operations. For example, if we have to shut down our existing system to make changes in the new system, we have to figure out how we are going to handle bags manually. It's very beneficial if we can control that. Ideally, we would like to take the lead in both the design and construction. In this case, the airport already had the design, so we were responsible for the construction."
The 18-month, $32 million project required the construction of a steel structure suspended above the existing baggage operations. To hold eight new L-3 6600 explosive detection machines, explosive trace detection equipment and new conveyors, the contractor installed elevated pods on the east and west sides of the terminal. Crews also installed new makeup devices with new hardware and software for the inline system, and upgraded existing mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing.
Chris Norton, chief executive officer of VTC, is a fan of carriers taking the lead during projects when it is beneficial for both the airlines and airport. "In some cases, airlines can be a lot more nimble and they can tailor construction phasing to support their operation," she explains.
Reflecting on experiences during the Terminal 1 design and construction process, FLL management concluded that airline-led baggage handling/checked bag inspection system projects allowed the county and airline more flexibility and produced an exemplary product within budget and on schedule. "The sponsoring airline will need to set the example for the other airlines as Southwest did in Terminal 1," notes Gambrill. "The Southwest station was dedicated to accommodating the project so that work could be done as fast as possible. Southwest set the example, and the other airlines followed their lead."
Additionally, the Broward County Aviation Department concluded that a design-build approach was preferable for future inline baggage screening projects at FLL, because it allowed department personnel to provide input into a criteria package and set the direction of the project without having to take on the responsibility of the entire design. Gambrill chronicles several key points: "Create a concept of where the inline system will be placed; have good, detailed specifications prepared, including reporting requirements, system requirements, proper documents; and provide these specifications to the BHS (baggage handling system) contractor and allow the contractor to handle the project design-build."
Department Project Manager Richard Welch notes that logistics, phasing and layout/design are key components to inline systems. "It's important that the companies that install these systems provide input to the design as early as possible," Welch informs. "In addition, the airport's building department has a unique requirement that they do not accept baggage handling system mechanical and electrical design drawings for approval; therefore, the BHS original equipment manufacturer's submittals need to be provided instead."
Welch goes on to explain that even in a design-build project, the role of the designer-in this case, an independent third party working for the county aviation department-is critical.
For terminals 2 and 3, Gresham, Smith and Partners (GS&P) prepared a design criteria package to solicit publicly advertised bids from design-build contractors. After the design-build project was procured, GS&P was retained for the duration of the project to ensure that the final product adhered to the airport's design intent. "It was an interesting process for us to go from acting as the traditional designer preparing a design criteria package to then assuming an owner's representative role," remarks GS&P Project Manager Ben Goebel. "We had to be really vigilant to handle the ever-changing role and responsibilities."
Building on the success of the airline-led project in Terminal 1, the county aviation department contracted Delta Air Lines to take the lead during the design and construction of a new inline baggage screening system in Terminal 2, and with JetBlue Airways in Terminal 3.
In Terminal 2, Delta procured the project as design-build, with Siemens designing and installing the baggage handling system/checked bag inspection system. PM Technologies managed the project for Delta and GS&P/CAGE acted as owner's representatives to the aviation department to verify that the end product met the intent of the criteria package.
TSA's contractor installed three Morpho 9800 explosives detection system machines and explosives trace detection equipment. The airline's contractor installed new baggage conveyor systems and make-up devices, and replaced existing conveyors. Mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing were modified and upgraded, and new hardware and software for the inline system installed.
The Terminal 2 system includes early bag storage with ramp-level induction to accommodate seasonal cruise ship traffic and year-round international connecting flights. The addition of an inline system also prompted modifications in the ticketing lobby.
The Terminal 3 project featured installation of four L-3 6700 explosives detection machines and explosives trace detection equipment. As in Terminal 2, crews also installed new baggage conveyor systems and make-up devices, and renovated existing conveyors. Mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing were again modified and upgraded, and new hardware and software for the inline system installed. Additionally, contractors modified Terminal 3's south lobby, airline ticket offices and F1 gate to accommodate the new inline baggage system.
JetBlue hired BNP Associates to design the system to a 30% level, and then put the package out as a design-build. BNP continued to support JetBlue as its designer and owner's representative for the baggage handling and checked bag inspection systems to verify that the end product met the design intent.
Doyle Steele, regional manager for Delta Air Lines throughout the Terminal 2 project and currently director at PM Technologies, notes that airlines, with regard to inline baggage systems, have a well-developed appreciation and understanding of the design and installation process.
"When you're building a new baggage system, baggage operations must continue throughout the construction process," says Steele. "You have to work on top of a live operation, which is a huge challenge. If an airport is in charge of the process, they might schedule work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., which is fine unless, say, there's a weather delay in Dallas and the airline needs to keep operations open until 1 a.m. In other words, operations are fluid and you don't know what's going to be happening from hour to hour. If the airline is in charge, it can adapt to unforeseen events and circumstances."
Mike Stine, director of corporate real estate for JetBlue, believes that the airline and airport benefit when an airline takes the lead in baggage system projects. The airline is better able to control the impact on operations and in many instances is able to move the project forward more quickly, says Stine.
Debbie Proctor, JetBlue's manager of facilities, agrees: "In order to facilitate growth, not only for JetBlue but for other airlines as well, we feel we can expedite the process and make sure we get the system that fits our business model."
Stine and Proctor both note that while JetBlue is assuming a general contractor-like role, the airline is following Broward County Community Business Enterprise requirements by hiring local businesses to perform the work.
"Broward County was a tremendous partner," Stine emphasizes.
Many airports welcome inline baggage system projects because they regain valuable space in the ticketing lobby when large screening equipment is moved behind the scenes. In addition, tenant airlines benefit from faster bag processing and TSA is able to free up valuable human resources due to added automation.
Under FLL's previous baggage screening system, TSA employees handled each checked bag at least twice. Now, they only handle checked bags when images cannot be resolved and bags are diverted to a physical search room.
"We are pleased to move these giant machines out of the lobbies and get the system into the bowels of the airport," reports TSA Public Information Manager Sari Koshetz. "This continuing rollout of the inline system at FLL, to which TSA contributed more than $80 million, is an excellent example of the federal government partnering with local government, in this case county government, to make screening operations as efficient as possible."
Recent efforts to increase baggage-processing rates at FLL remind Steele of "Speed wins," a phrase Delta's former chief executive, Richard Anderson, often used when talking about the travel business.
"He's right," Steele reflects. "Time is money. If you can improve a process, it's a win. The faster you can do that, the better the win."