WATCH: What happens to your luggage behind the scenes at Charleston International Airport
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) —
ABC News 4 got a look Thursday at a side of Charleston International Airport flyers never see.
More than 4,500 checked bags run through the heavy duty x-ray machines one floor below the airport terminal. TSA agent Candy Muckelvaney the says screeching alarms are just background noise.
“The machines actually do the majority of screenings on the bags,” said TSA agent Candy Muckelvaney, pointing to one of eight screening machines. “Our machine is designed to alarm on certain objects or items and when it does that, we have to take a closer look."
Agents take that closer look among the maze of conveyor belts and flowing luggage. Mark Howell with the TSA says they let the technology do most of the heavy lifting.
“They’re programmed with algorithms to look for different densities of items as well as shapes that we deem can be a threat on board an aircraft,” he said. “ A majority of bags comes through and the machine will do work for us and we don’t have to do anything with it.”
Checked bags are scanned just like carry-ons before being given the green light. The only difference? A TSA agent may have to search your bag without you even around.
“You’ll have a notice of inspection that we went into your bag,” Howell said. “if you don’t have one of those in your bag, that means it went through the system without us even having to put our hands on it.”
It may be out of sight and out of mind for flyers, but the skies stay friendly precisely because of these forever-tucked-away machines and the agents who run them.
“There also is potential threat in checked baggage,” Howell said. “That’s why we’re making sure everything that goes through and gets on board an aircraft is screened thoroughly.”
Officials with the Charleston County Aviation Authority say they plan to upgrade the current checked bag screening technology starting in the fall. The process would take 18 months and cost around $18 million. Officials say 90% of that is funded by partners with the TSA, with the rest coming from the Charleston County Aviation Authority.