10-mile-long Miami International Airport baggage system on standby until May
By Ashley D. Torres
Technical issues and testing on the north terminal automated baggage system at Miami International Airport have stalled full operation until May.
The baggage system is part of the airport's north terminal development, which has included reconfiguring concourses to create the mile-long linear terminal and opening the 9,000-passengers-per-hour Concourse D Skytrain. The baggage system cost $205 million to build and is one of the world's only systems to transport luggage directly from ticket counters to gates.
The system's 10 miles of conveyors are separated into five areas designated to a certain number of ticket counters, called matrices, which feature explosive detection scanners and areas for security administration agents to inspect bags requiring hand searches.
Workers finished phases I and II of the system, which include four matrices and are to provide baggage screening and delivery only for domestic and departing international flights, as scheduled Feb. 16.
However, when American Airlines, which is based in the north terminal, began testing the system's efficiency and accuracy with passenger bags in March, said Greg Chin, a county Aviation Department spokesman, operators hit glitches.
Technical issues with the system's video imaging, which screens bags for explosives and monitors the system; back-up plan mechanisms; and anti-gridlock enhancements that would eliminate jammed bags are being fixed before passenger-bag testing resumes, Mr. Chin said, via email.
Currently, the airport is using the old baggage system, which is to be demolished after the new one is up and running.
Testing is to resume at month's end and last roughly two weeks. If successful, the system would be approved for full operation in May, two months behind schedule.
Preliminary testing of the system for Transportation Security Administration certification and 40-hour testing by the Aviation Department is complete. The administration, Mr. Chin said, gives final certification after 30 days of successful passenger-bag operations.
Phase III of the baggage system, which features the international matrix that comprises 10% of the entire system, isn't to be done until late 2011, when a federal inspection area is constructed.
The international matrix is to scan the luggage of foreigners whose final destination is not Miami. When Phase III is complete, the transportation administration would test only the international matrix.
Until Phase III is done, Aviation Director José Abreu has said, the central terminal's baggage system will transfer baggage from international flights to domestic and vice versa.
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