Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portland Jetport behind the scenes

Portland Jetport (PWM) had an open house for the newly constructed terminal addition yesterday.  The expansive check in counters will house Jet Blue and Delta until February when all airlines serving Portland will use the new 140,000 square foot facility.

One of the special features of the expansion is the geothermal heating and cooling system that employs over five miles of underground deep-well piping to bring constant temperature circulating water to sub-floor cooling in summer and heating in winter.  The combination of sustainable construction allows for application to the LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) council for "gold" status.

A couple more elements that caught my attention  were the easily accessible connection centers for power and electronics charging right at the departure seating.  In the bathrooms I noticed the Dyson -think vacuum cleaners- hand driers that produce a strong "blade" of air that actually forces the water from your hands like a scraper.  I first experienced these in Europe and they are fast and efficient.

What I didn't expect was a behind-the-scenes tour of the baggage system that the public normally never gets to see.  Baggage transits a maze of conveyor belts after going through huge x-ray machines where each piece is scanned in "slices" like a Cat Scan where TSA agents monitor contents for suspicious items.  If something is suspect, the bag is automatically ejected from the conveyor and directed to an inspection area where agents open and inspect the bag visually.  Only about 3 percent of bags are flagged for visual inspection.  Further along the line scanners read the destination baggage tags and direct each bag to the correct plane loading area. 

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