9 Investigates

9 Investigates: How Charlotte Douglas plans to speed up security checkpoint lines

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you’ve ever waited in a long security checkpoint line at the airport, you know how stressful that can be. But, there are plans in Charlotte to speed that up significantly.

Eyewitness News anchor Damany Lewis got the rare opportunity to go inside the TSA operation at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and he found out there are big changes coming that will get you through the line faster.

“It takes the machine less than five seconds to render that decision,” TSA officer Marshall Whitehead said. “We can’t afford to make mistakes here, in this job here.”

Within a nine-day period last year, 3D-imaging machines found three undeclared guns or guns not in proper cases inside luggage at the airport.

“Once your bag leaves the ticket counter, it goes through our explosive detection system,” said Whitehead. “We use computed topography to create a 3D image of your baggage."

TSA supervisor Lee Watson said they found six guns total in 2019.

“They will forget on the way to the airport that they still have their guns with them and will drop them in the suitcase,” Watson said.

The 3D systems that find weapons scan 15,000 checked bags daily.

Similar systems, smaller in size, will be installed at the security checkpoints in the airport. The new units will replace X-ray machines to speed up the process.

In 2019, TSA agents found 74 guns people attempted to bring in carry-on bags through security checkpoints at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Security lines were shut down for up to 20 minutes for each gun found, officials said.

Charlotte will be one of a handful of cities to use the scanners, which give a 360-degree view of what’s in passengers’ bags.

Items such as laptops and tablets will be able to stay in carry-on bags going through security within five years as a result of the new scanners.

That will increase speed through security lines and security, officials said.

“All of our roles here is to ensure every passenger that comes to Charlotte can arrive to their destination without any event taking place,” Whitfield said.

The airport will be installing three new 3D machines. The first will be installed Feb. 10 and Feb. 11, the second on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, and the third on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18.

The machines will go into service shortly after those dates and once TSA officers are fully trained.

Damany Lewis

Damany Lewis, wsoctv.com

Damany Lewis is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.

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