Originally created 05/11/04

Members consider baggage system



A handful of Augusta aviation commissioners voted Monday to consider a more high-tech, expensive baggage screening system for Augusta Regional Airport's new terminal, which could push back the project's start date.

Aviation Commission Chairman Cedric Johnson recommended to members of the terminal project subcommittee that they seriously look at using an inline baggage system - with a price tag between $500,000 and $1.5 million - instead of trace detection machines - estimated to cost $40,000, as originally planned.

With the trace detection machines, workers rub a swab over the bag and then run the swab through a machine to determine whether there are explosives inside, whereas the inline screening system uses a combination of X-rays and CT scans.

It's about the same as using an eight-track player instead of a CD player, airport officials said.

"We want to have (the terminal) as modern as we can," Mr. Johnson said.

"If we're trying to attract a low-cost carrier and we don't have an inline baggage system, then we probably won't be considered,"

Not everyone at the meeting agreed on the Transportation Security Administration's stance on inline systems.

Mr. Johnson said TSA authorities told him that in a few years all airports might be required to have the technology.

Bob Anderson, the lead architect for the LPA Group, said the TSA did not endorse the system to him.

The plan is for airport officials to talk with TSA personnel to see how the airport could fund the system and then to call a special subcommittee meeting in the coming week, Mr. Johnson said.

The issue of baggage screening will be voted on at the next full commission meeting at the end of May.

Buster Boshears, the airport's interim director, said the final terminal design must be approved at that meeting to make the scheduled November groundbreaking.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.