Canadian Consulting Engineer

Explosive Detection Systems at Canada’s Airports

October 1, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Marshall Macklin Monaghan

Marshall Macklin Monaghan

Following September 11, 2001, the Canadian government undertook to upgrade security at Canada’s main airports. It formed a new organization called the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) whose mandate was to implement system-wide changes to bolster airport security and deliver a safe air transport environment.

A primary objective of the security measures included introducing technological improvements both for screening passengers at the pre-board stage, and also for screening baggage checked and destined to go into the hold of the aircraft. Through the deployment of “pre-board screening (PBS)” and “hold baggage screening (HBS)” explosive detection scanning equipment, combined with enhanced staff training, the intention was to deter terrorists and prevent them placing improvised explosive devices on commercial aircraft.

Transport Canada established a list of 89 airports to receive explosive detection system upgrades for their pre-board passenger and hold baggage screening processes. They included nine class 1 airports. These were in Halifax, two in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. There were also 20 class 2 airports such as Regina, Whitehorse, Quebec City and Iqaluit, and 60 smaller “other class” facilities.

Consulting engineering firm Marshall Macklin Monaghan (MMM) was selected in 2002 to assist CATSA in delivering the $650-million program for implementing the new systems. The consulting engineers provided overall program management, planning, design and system compliance testing. The company’s role included preparing a national technical and financial guideline document for the deployment of the explosive detection systems, and subsequently providing specialized technical and financial due diligence assistance to CATSA and all the affected airports.

Team framework

In order to address the sheer number of sites involved, their diverse locations and individual operating characteristics, MMM established a team of independent groups, each responsible for defined aspects of the project. The MMM-led team included other consulting engineering firms strategically located throughout Canada (see list of subconsultants).

The organization framework included a core group from MMM headed by a partner-in-charge, a program manager of implementation, and a technical manager. There was also a program manager in charge of testing the systems.

The project was also divided into five geographic regions with a regional coordinator responsible for assistance, monitoring and regular site attendance at each airport in that region. The regions were Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie/Northern and Pacific. Due to its size and complexity, Toronto Pearson had its own regional coordinator.

The consulting engineers’ initial mandate included:

* preparing, in consultation with industry stakeholders and Transport Canada, technical and financial guidance materials for use by all the designated airports;

* assistance to each airport in developing specific solutions; review of every planned solution;

* coordinating, in concert with the airports, the design, implementation and system commissioning process for integrating the CATSA-supplied equipment;

* managing the $650-million capital program ($350 million in infrastructure upgrading and $300 million in explosion detection system equipment) and the implementation schedule.

Subsequently, the consultants’ mandate was expanded to include:

* developing a “common look and feel” manual that would allow system-wide implementation. With this approach, all pre-board passenger screening stations had a similar appearance and operational protocol in order to ease the experience of the travelling public;

* implementing a standardized signage program at all pre-board passenger screening stations;

* developing conceptual solutions at over 60 of the designated facilities;

* final design and contract administration services directly to 20 airport authorities in modifying buildings and conveyance systems to accommodate the explosion detection systems.

Integrating screening equipment

The challenge of deploying the explosive detection systems was complex because of Canada’s three-sector air travel profile which consists of domestic, transborder and international passengers. It required a “made in Canada” solution.

Special programming and communications protocols were developed to track and share information between the various equipment components in order to account accurately for every bag processed. It quickly became apparent that the majority of the existing baggage handling system vendors had very little experience in these highly integrated and automated system requirements.

In many of the larger airports, building expansions and extensive retrofitting was needed to accommodate the conveyors and screening equipment. Some of the equipment is comparable in size to a compact car and weighs over 8,000 kilograms. Temporary baggage systems, new power and ventilation supplies, reinforced floor slabs, tenant space relocation and fit-up were required, warranting complicated multi-staged construction programs. The construction had to be done within restricted areas and often without interrupting the existing operating systems.

By December 31, 2005, all 89 designated airports had achieved Transport Canada’s directive and had 100% hold baggage screening on all commercial flights originating in Canada.

In a March 29, 2006 news release, Transport Canada Minister Cannon stated, “I’m proud to report that Canada has met, and indeed exceeded the international standard as set by ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] to address the risk associated with explosives in checked baggage.”

Name of project: Explosive Detection System Deployment at Canada’s Airports

Award-winning firm: Marshall Macklin Monaghan – program managers (Kim Gurney, CET, Marcus Boyle, P.Eng., Dan Butler, P.Eng., Brian Derich, Ian Waymann, P.Eng., Mark Boone, P.Eng., Carmine Bello, P.Eng., Peter Polom, Michael Hepburn, Ron Madewell)

Owner: Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority

Subconsultants: Acres International, BPR Groupe Conseil, SGE Acres, J.L. Richards and Associates, Pelican Woodcliff, API Architects


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