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RS&H-designed Bag Handling System Wins Project of the Year

November 4, 2019      

Tags: Aviation, Awards

RS&H logo with rays on light blue background.

RS&H designed the Savannah airport’s new outbound baggage handling system (BHS) to be more efficient and a more comfortable work environment for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees. The project has done just that, and the results are award-winning.

The Georgia Airports Association named the BHS project at the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport the 2019 Commercial Service Airport Project of the Year at their annual conference in September.

This is the third GAA award for RS&H in as many years. RS&H-designed runway projects at Columbus Airport and McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport picked up two awards in 2017.

Following the Study Guide

The BHS project came out of a 2015 RS&H study at the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport that assessed the airport’s existing single-pier runout system.

In this process, bags dropped at airline ticket counters moved on a single belt down to the airlines, who would load the baggage onto carts and drive them to a centrally located TSA screening area. From there, airline employees moved bags back onto tug carts and towed them to their aircraft.

“The TSA area was sheltered, but there was no air conditioning,” said RS&H project manager Keith Nix, PE, LEED AP. “Not only could it get very hot in there, but workers also had to contend with the exhaust fumes from all the tug cart vehicles driving through. It wasn’t the best environment, and the process was extremely inefficient.”

The First Stage

With no TSA funding available for at least the first stage of the project, the RS&H team worked with baggage consultants JSM & Associates and airport officials to develop a system that consolidated and centralized the TSA baggage screening checkpoint. The checkpoint moved to the center of the airport, with a central BHS line that collects bags from all check-in counters and routes them to the central screening location.

From there, TSA agents slide bags through screening machines and move them onto the “cleared” line, which takes bags to a carousel. The carousel belt spins around with bags until airlines grab them and run them out to their respective planes.

“The new BHS is tremendously more efficient and a lot more streamlined,” Nix said. “And the TSA workers are happy because they’re in a climate-controlled space now.”

More Improvements Now Online

The award-winning outbound BHS project proved to be just the first phase, as the airport secured TSA funding for a second phase. Now, as a result of the second phase project, the BHS process is completely automated.

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