Logan International Airport will become the first in the country to electronically screen cargo before it is loaded on commercial flights as part of a test program.
In the 30-day program to begin Tuesday, a mammoth screening machine will scan full truckloads of cargo at the Boston airport for explosives, addressing what many people say is a gaping hole in the government’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
While the Transportation Security Administration has focused on passenger and baggage screening, only a small percentage of cargo is checked before being shipped in cargo or passenger planes.
According to the General Accounting Office, about 22% of air cargo transported in the United States is carried aboard passenger planes.
Logan has worked aggressively to become a security leader since the terrorist attacks, which were launched with the help of two planes hijacked from the airport. The airport was the first major airport to install a permanent screening program for all checked baggage.
After the 30-day pilot program, Logan expects to try other versions of the technology and decide on a new security approach for cargo.
Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has been leading a fight in Congress for increased cargo security, arguing that terrorists could easily slip a bomb through the current security system. He is proposing a measure that would require the TSA to physically inspect all cargo bound for passenger planes.
The agency objects, arguing that such a requirement would be so cumbersome and time-consuming that it would prevent any cargo from being shipped on commercial flights, leading to a loss of revenue for already struggling airlines.