The new inline baggage handling system in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
’s south terminal will open in March or April, with concourse E to follow about a year later. The new system was conceived as a federal project, with the TSA entering into contracts with Boeing and various subcontractors for design and installation. They came up with a cost estimate of $215 million, to be funded partially by the airport, partially by the TSA and partially by FAA grants. Early in the project, the airport saw what was planned and felt it could probably save the federal government money and coordinate the project better with other airport operations. "They agreed to let us take this over and we’re going to complete this entire project that was estimated at $215 million for less than $180 million with more than a $35 million savings," said Ben DeCosta, Aviation General Manager. "It involved the demolition and destruction of roadways on either side of the terminal without ever – not for a minute – shutting down the airport."
DeCosta said, “I like to describe it as doing heart surgery or a marathon runner while they are not laying down. So we have built two relatively large buildings under the roadways and we have 26 X-ray machines in very large rooms connected with five miles of new conveyor systems. It is basically for TSA workers and the thousands of bags that come through here every day. Every single one will get the explosives detection screening before it ends up on an aircraft. Right now, we do it the brute force, old-fashioned way. In the new way, it will all be automated, and from the passenger’s point-of-view, they will come in and drop their bag at the ticket counter – just like they used to before 9/11 – and be on their way.”
The City of Atlanta issued three contracts as part of its effort to automate the baggage screening process – Concourse E and North and South Terminals. Jervis B Webb won the Concourse E and North Terminal contracts, which it is working on simultaneously; they are worth $24 million and $28 million respectively. The virtual replacement of the baggage handling system in the North Terminal becomes operational later this year. Ken Hamel, Vice President of Airport Systems at Jervis B Webb, said, “It is a full inline system – the roadways were out of commission for a while, they built a couple of new basements we affectionately call ‘the box’, and in there is where this screening equipment will be located. The significant portion of this is it is really going to return the lobby back to passengers and it is going to make the screening process transparent to passengers.”
System life on the conveyor side can be very long – 20 years or more. The electronics and controls need to be upgraded at between 10 and 15 years because technology advances and older technology isn’t always available. “If you have a computer that was installed in 1994, the manufacturers may not be around in many cases, and/or may not support the product any longer. So at times you do have to upgrade the controls, and they are normally associated with other upgrades that are occurring,” Hamel said.