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Charlotte airport shut down in screener mishap

Officials rescreened passengers in case they had passed through an inoperative screening device.  

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (CNN) -- Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was shut down Tuesday following the discovery of an unplugged screening device.

Officials decided to evacuate everyone in the airport gate areas and have them rescreened in case they had passed through the inoperative magnetometer.

Outgoing airplanes taxiing at the time of the incident returned to the gates. Passengers were unloaded for rescreening.

Passengers aboard flights that had already taken off were rechecked at their destinations, said FAA spokesman Chris White.

Some incoming flights were initially diverted to nearby airports.

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International Total Services, a private contractor based in Cleveland, Ohio, was running the screening area where the magnetometer was situated, according to US Airways spokesman Rick Weintraub.

The incident took place around 11 a.m. and was expected to affect flights throughout the day, said airport spokeswoman Stacy Bryant.

It was not clear exactly how many flights were immediately affected. Charlotte-Douglas aviation director Jerry Orr said about 40 flights remained on the ground nearly three hours after the incident.

"It's a mess," Orr said. "As of 1 o'clock, we're back open and still screening passengers to be reboarded."

He said nearly 6,000 people had to be rescreened and many were still waiting in line to pass through the checkpoints.

"It just happened at a bad time," Orr said, noting there were more passengers than usual at the airport because of the holiday season.

"It's a huge mistake. We don't believe [the magnetometer] was unplugged more than five minutes, but we're not sure we'll ever be able to determine that. It cost the airlines and the airport a lot of money."

About 500 flights depart each day from the airport, where US Airways has a hub.

-- CNN Aviation Producer Beth Lewandowski in Washington contributed to this report


• Federal Aviation Administration
• Charlotte-Douglas International Airport

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