An automated security screening system rolled out Thursday at McCarran International Airport is aimed at processing airline passengers 20 to 30 percent faster than the method currently practiced at most airports.
Three security lanes were reconfigured with the new equipment inside Terminal 3, but plans are underway to gradually implement the automated system throughout the nation’s eighth-busiest airport.
“It is a phenomenal improvement and something that we hope will work and be expanded to serve other customers in other areas of the airport in the near future,” airport spokesman Chris Jones said.
Each new screening area is equipped with three windows that allow several passengers to simultaneously place their belongings into a pair of oversized bins. A green light designates an open window.
The goal to let experienced airline passengers move quickly through the process without having to wait for slower, inexperienced passengers who might hold up the line, according to officials with the Transportation Security Administration.
Travelers must place all their belongings — even carry-on bags — into the bins, which are 25 percent larger than standard bins and equipped with radio-frequency chips. A camera snaps photographs of every item placed on a conveyor belt leading to the X-ray machine.
Bags and bins deemed to be safe will continue rolling along, but those carrying a prohibited item will be diverted to a separate area so that TSA officers can take a closer look.
“It’s an automation occurrence, which means we have 100 percent clarity that we have the right bag,” said Steve Karoly, the TSA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis.
McCarran is the sixth airport to implement the automated system after airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. It will be introduced in September at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, while negotiations are underway between the TSA and airport officials in Dallas and Seattle.
“This is great. It’s new to us, but it’s not leading-edge technology, because it’s been in Europe for the last five years,” Karoly said. “But we are looking at a systemwide perspective of aviation security.”
The automated screening system is among several measures studied by the TSA’s innovation task force. Security measures that could soon be introduced to airports include:
— Biometric automation to determine a traveler’s identification, rather than having a TSA officer examine driver’s licenses, passports and boarding passes.
— Credential authentication machines that can ensure a driver’s license or passport is valid.
— 3-D technology, which is already used to screen large, checked baggage but now is being tested in smaller, cheaper machines to screen carry-on bags passing through security checkpoints.
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New security cameras will provide better coverage at the airport
A new set of security cameras will soon keep an eye on nearly every nook and cranny at McCarran International Airport.
Cameras capable of rotating 360 degrees will replace the existing set of telescoping cameras, airport spokesman Chris Jones said.
Airport officials have budgeted $16 million for the surveillance system, but a final cost has not yet been determined. Part of the cost will be covered by a $9 million grant from the Transportation Security Administration.
The project is still under design, but the cameras are expected to be installed sometime next year.
— Art Marroquin