Larger Air Freight Must Be Screened By 2010
Commercial airliners have carried
cargo packages for years, allowing airlines to make money on what
otherwise would be empty baggage compartments. And starting last
month, most of those packages are now screened for explosives.
"This is a very significant step for security," said TSA
spokesman Christopher White.
The Transportation Security Administration implemented cargo
screening on all packages carried onboard narrowbody, single-aisle
airliners last month, reports USA Today. Packages transported in
the baggage holds of larger widebody aircraft are slated to undergo
similar screening by early 2010.
The staggered timeframe reflects both the different types of
cargo transported on small and large planes, as well as the number
of packages being transported. While over 90 percent of domestic
flights are handled by narrowbody aircraft, they only transport
about 25 percent of all air freight.
Due to the relatively small size of narrowbody baggage
compartments, only small-to-medium size packages will fit onboard.
Those packages may be anything from perishable flowers and food
items, cancelled bank checks and Federal Reserve notes, computers,
auto parts... the list goes on.
Those items may all be sent through conventional X-ray and bomb
detection machines used for regular checked luggage. In comparison,
freight carried on larger widebody aircraft is loaded into
five-by-five-foot shipping pallets -- transferable between
passenger aircraft and dedicated freight-hauling airliners -- which
must then be screened by larger machines.
Airlines handle most cargo screening duties at 80 large and
midsized airports using equipment to detect explosives residue,
according to Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter.
TSA screeners are responsible for screening checked luggage and air
freight originating from over 370 smaller airports.
"The American flying public should be happy and secure in the
knowledge that every package that goes on narrowbody flights is
screened," said Brandon Fried, executive director of the
Future plans call for manufacturers to handle some screening
duties at the time of shipping, to reduce the workload on airport
personnel. The Congressionally-mandated deadline for all air cargo
to be screened, regardless of size, is February 2010.