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Machines Replace Humans in Checking Luggage for Explosives

Before now, every piece of luggage that was checked in at the Springfield-Branson National Airport had to be searched by hand for explosives. Now, that job will be done electronically. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.

SOUND OF AIRPORT INTERCOM: “May I have your attention please: All travelers, if any unknown person attempts to give you any item, including luggage to transport on your flight, do not accept it…”

On Wednesday, the scene at the Springfield-Branson National Airport was pretty typical: a couple of family members were dropping off their loved ones for a flight, and some travelers were arranging for a rental car.

Before this month, every bag that was checked in went on a conveyor belt to be hand-searched for explosives. Now, that job has been replaced by two large machines.

SOUND: Bags on conveyor belt, hum of machines

Below the passenger area, in the bowels of the airport, four workers from the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, are sporting royal blue shirts and gold badges. They closely monitor the screens as each bag goes through a machine. The machines themselves are about five feet tall and nine feet long, and they look very similar to a CAT Scan machine.

After they’ve made it through the machines, the bags are moved along onto the conveyor belt that will take them, ideally, to the correct airplane. These machines can scan the bags for a full spectrum of explosives. Carrie Harmon is a spokesperson for the TSA.

“These new machines eliminate the need to hand-inspect every bag, so they’re quicker and more efficient,” said Harmon.

The machines can scan 226 bags per hour—that’s an average of almost four bags per minute. According to the airport, each of the two machines cost about $375,000.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.