Chicago Airport Gives Surprise Cargo X-ray Inspection Tests
A mobile X-ray machine capable of screening the contents of large cargo containers was recently used for the first time to check trucks entering O’Hare International Airport, authorities said.
The exercise, part of a drill involving federal and city agencies, will become a common security practice as a 2010 deadline requiring screening of all cargo that is loaded aboard passenger planes approaches, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Currently, all passengers and their checked baggage and carry-on items are screened for explosives and weapons. But cargo carried in the belly of U.S. passenger planes—more than 10,000 tons of air freight daily—undergoes only random inspections, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The security agency is hiring and training hundreds of cargo inspectors across the country to meet the screening deadline, officials told the Chicago Tribune.
The surprise cargo security inspections were aimed at looking for suspicious items hidden in trucks making deliveries to stores and kiosks in airport terminals, says Elio Montenegro, a TSA spokesman.
A security truck mounted with an X-ray scanner also examined vehicles carrying large containers that were destined to be loaded onto airplanes, Montenegro says. If anything unusual were detected, security officers would open the containers for inspection.
The large X-ray scanners, provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have been used at other cargo locations at the airport and at some taxi stands outside O’Hare terminals since the spring, officials said. The equipment is also being deployed at Midway Airport.