March 20, 2009 at 1:00 am

New, faster baggage screening

Transportation security officer Virginia Bodine checks a suspect bag on Thursday. New screening will make for fewer hand checks. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

ROMULUS -- The Transportation Security Administration debuted Thursday its new $72 million baggage screening system at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The system reduces average time for a bag to be screened and make its way to an aircraft by roughly half to just 11 minutes, said Robert Ball, TSA's regional director. The Wayne County Airport Authority paid for half the system, which can handle hundreds of pieces of luggage per minute. The new system utilizes state-of-the-art imaging scanners that can automatically detect explosion threats in baggage, and reduce the amount of luggage pulled for manual screenings, Ball said. In operation for just nine days, Lester Robinson, chief executive of the airport authority, said the new baggage system -- which occupies a new structure built on the site of the former gate A41 at the McNamara Terminal -- will come in handy during heavy travel periods. A similar, but smaller, system is in place at North Terminal, which opened in September. The new system was built by Jervis B. Webb Co. of Farmington Hills.

Nathan Hurst

The new system includes 14 high-tech X-ray machines, like the one above, ...