Kahului Airport Adds Inline Explosive Detection

Author: 
Rebecca Kanable
Published in: 
November-December
2010

A new high-speed inline baggage handling system at Kahului Airport (OGG) is the first of its kind in Hawaii, and among the first in the United States to be completed with federal stimulus funds.

The system, which integrates explosive detection system (EDS) equipment into an outbound baggage conveyor system, cost about $24.6 million to construct and integrate. The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) dedicated the new system in June, marking the end of work that began in 2008.




Facts & Figures

Project: Inline Baggage Handling System

Location: Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii

Owner: Hawaii Department of Transportation

Infrastructure: $24.6 million

EDS Equipment: L-3 Security & Detection Systems

Baggage System: The Horsley Company

General Contractor: Bodell Construction

Construction Management: Bowers & Kubota

High-level Software: BCS North America

Low-level Software: The Horsley Company

Automatic Tag Reader: SICK Inc. - North America

System Maintenance/Operation: Elite Line Services

Benefits: Streamlined passenger check-in & improved explosive detection

The baggage handling system project was part of a $2.3 billion Hawaii Airports Modernization Program announced in March 2006. The comprehensive 12-year plan aims to secure safety, improve efficiency and increase capacity at HDOT airports while keeping them "uniquely Hawaiian." Averaging 125 flights per day, Kahului Airport is the second busiest airport in the system and has the newest terminal facilities.

Cleaning the Lobby

Before Kahului Airport's new system was in place, smaller EDS devices were located in the lobbies. The equipment was cumbersome and about three times slower than the new machines, relates Randy Stratford, senior project manager with The Horsley Company, which provided the baggage handling system.

"They were manpower-intensive," Stratford relates. Throughput rates were lower because bags had to be lifted on and off a short conveyor that moved them through a standalone EDS machine, he explains. The new behind-the-scenes system has a throughput of about 2,400 bags per hour, he contrasts.

HDOT spokeswoman Tammy Mori says the new inline baggage system is ready for the airport's anticipated increase in traffic during the next 20 years. It also helps streamline the passenger check-in process, she adds.

All baggage bound from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland is still subject to pre-flight inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but passengers no longer need to walk their checked baggage to the EDS machines and wait before proceeding to the security checkpoint. After travelers check in, their baggage travels behind the ticket counters on a conveyor system into a back room for a series of screenings. The conveyor system alone is almost as long as a football field, notes Mori.

Increased Safety & Efficiency

Among the most technologically advanced systems available today, Kahului Airport's new inline equipment adds an element of safety as well as convenience, Mori says. Just having the EDS machines in a secured area increases security, she explains.

Behind the scenes, six TSA machines - eXaminer 3DXs from L-3 Security & Detection Systems - detect explosives, weapons and other contraband using imaging technology similar to medical MRI machines. On-screen viewing helps TSA officials quickly determine whether a bag contains a potential threat. If a weapon or explosive is detected, the machines alert TSA security officers so they can manage the bag manually. On-screen analysis helps reduce the number of re-scans and physical bag searches.

In addition to moving bags through the EDS machines faster, the conveyor system increases efficiency. New crossover lines between the north and south security array allow bags to be transferred from one pod to another if something goes wrong within one. Once bags are screened, crossover lines can transfer the bags back.

In all, Stratford estimates there are about 3,700 linear feet of conveyor components, including merges, transport and queue belts, vertical sorters and high-speed diverters. There are also 10 new baggage make-up carousels.

In the security matrix, there's a new on-screen resolution room, where TSA officers view images of screened bags; a new explosive detection room, where they perform trace testing and manually search bags that have been flagged for additional screening; and a new control room that allows remote monitoring of the overall system with sort allocation computers. The control room, notes Stratford, has some of the most technologically advanced software in the world. The Horsley Company provided the low-level software (LLS), which includes ControlNet programming of the touch-screen panels. Yet, Stratford says without the high-level software (HLS) provided by BCS North America to oversee the exchange of information between the baggage handling system and the EDS units, the overall system would not function at the highest levels.

After baggage clears one of the three security screening zones, it is routed to the sortation matrix's main line. As baggage passes through the automatic tag reader's 10-head laser scanning array, the bag tag information is read and passed back through the LLS to the HLS, which tracks and returns information relating to flight destination, and bags are routed to their corresponding flight sort destinations. The automatic tag readers were manufactured and installed by SICK Inc. - North America. The Horsley Company and BCS integrated them into the overall system.





Housed behind the airport's ticket counters, new EDS machines help streamline passenger check-in and improve baggage screening security.

Phasing In

Several project members cite minimizing impact on the airport's ongoing operation as the project's top challenge.

"We developed a phasing plan that minimized the impact on the airlines and allowed our project to move forward on schedule," relates Stephen Spiegler, construction manager for general contractor Bodell Construction. "With careful coordination with the airlines, HDOT personnel and the state's construction manager, Bowers & Kubota, we developed an 18-phase plan for the airlines' ticketing operations."

Project team members first installed the south array, then the north. The core was installed last. As certain phases of the project were commissioned, carriers were rerouted via belts or relocated to different ticket counters, Stratford explains.

Expanding the baggage handling building while the system was being installed presented additional logistics challenges. But the project team prevailed, within budget and with one and a half months to spare.

"Our plan allowed us to control the schedule and ultimately deliver the project ahead of schedule," notes Spiegler.

Finishing early was the greatest accomplishment of the project, he says, because it proves that the entire project team worked well together: adjusting as needed, helping each other when possible and keeping the end product in mind.

Elite Line Services maintains and operates the system for the airport. TSA and the airlines continue to be key contacts. "Everyone seems happy with the system and how it's operating," reports Elite manager Vance Knode. "We can provide better service to the airlines, and they can provide better service to their customers because we have one of the newest systems in the states right now."

Project Pocketbook

While the six EDS machines were provided by TSA, HDOT provided the infrastructure to house them.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Hawaii received $18.5 million from TSA for the project. The remainder of the funding came from state airport funds. When Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano announced ARRA funding for the project in August 2009, design of the new baggage system was well under way. In awarding ARRA funds, DHS prioritizes "shovel-ready" projects that infuse resources into local economies quickly while meeting critical security needs.

In 2009, Hawaii was one of 11 states selected by TSA to share federal stimulus funds for EDS improvements. HDOT is receiving approximately $76.5 million to help advance the state's six-year Airports Modernization Plan. The bulk of the funds, $61.5 million, was designated for the installation of explosive detection systems - $18.5 million at Kahului Airport and $43 million at Honolulu International. Crews officially broke ground for the EDS project at Honolulu International in August; completion is expected in early 2013.

Subcategory: 
Baggage

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