TSA details luggage's journey at Nashville International - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

TSA details luggage's journey at Nashville International


Flying the friendly skies can be a challenge at time, but have you ever wondered about the voyage bags take when passengers aren't around?

From the check-in counter, either curbside or in the airport, baggage hops on a conveyer belt and goes backstage.

The first stop is the explosive detection system. Nashville International Airport has four of these machines that can handle up to 550 bags an hour.

The machines were added in a 2010 renovation at a cost of $32 million. That investment results in a hands-off approach.

"A majority of the bags that are entered into this system, the TSA does not touch," said Ken Meyer, assistant federal security director of the TSA.

If the machine clears the baggage, it's onto another conveyer belt and down to the airline baggage makeup area. The journey takes less than five minutes.

"The bag will almost always make it to the airline baggage makeup area before the individual makes it to the gate," Meyer said.

If the bag doesn't pass the first explosion test, it is scanned by another computer that can go slice by slice, examining the contents.

Most of those bags are approved and sent to the airplane. If they fail to check, bags end up at another location for a hand screening check under the watchful eye of closed circuit cameras.

Passengers receive a card explaining their bag was open and what to do if anything is wrong.

The cameras and computers are designed to ease fears that a TSA agent might lift something out of your open luggage.

"We started an integrity testing program which basically has teams go into airports across the United States with some high value items to see if our employees would take the bait," said Mark Howell, regional spokesperson for the TSA.

Out of the 3,600 test cases nationwide, only 13 employees, and none in Tennessee, took the bait.

"A lot of people think that, hey, we're going through every single bag," Howell said. "But a lot of the threats can really be eliminated or cleared. A lot of the bags can be cleared without even having a physical hand on them."

There have been no thefts by TSA employees at Nashville International Airport since April of 2011. TSA employees caught breaking the law are terminated immediately.

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