As Baltimore-Washington International Airport wrapped up its first week of screening every piece of checked baggage yesterday, U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn arrived to watch the new security measures in action on a formal tour.
Wynn, a Democrat who represents Prince George's County, arranged the visit after Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced last week that BWI's Concourse C would become the template for how luggage screening and other security measures will work nationwide.
"It's pretty exciting to me that BWI is the national laboratory for this kind of experiment and pilot program," Wynn told reporters before taking his 20-minute tour.
As the congressman watched people remove their shoes and walk through the security checkpoint, he questioned FAA security manager Amy Becke about the machines' capabilities and the reasons for the lines.
Becke told him that the staff at Concourse C's checkpoint has nearly doubled.
BWI officials said they expect to add three more machines to the four already in place for screening carry-on baggage at the concourse.
Becke answered most of Wynn's questions matter-of-factly but refused to talk to reporters who trailed behind.
Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said Wynn "had a number of questions and decided to get those answers."
Since Jan. 18, when a federal law requiring all checked luggage to be screened took effect, Porcari said passengers at BWI have noticed few changes.
While he acknowledged that the van-sized explosive-detection machines for checked luggage are hard to miss, Porcari said many other security changes are invisible.
For BWI, already a high-profile airport because of its proximity to Washington, the presence of federal regulators is nothing new.
"Mineta and [FAA Administrator Jane] Garvey are flying through this airport all the time," Porcari said. "Both have passed on suggestions from things they've seen, everything from cleanliness to issues of security."
Officials from the newly created Transportation Security Administration also have been through the airport in recent weeks, and will begin meeting regularly there next week.
"They said to us they will be here to watch and to learn," BWI director Beverley Swaim-Staley said.