Full Body Screening without Physical Contact

Airline passengers at one terminal at Bush Airport can save time by going through a screening process that’s being tested by the Transportation Security Administration. The new full body scanners will improve security and allow screeners to quickly scan passengers for potential weapons without physical contact. Pat Hernandez has more.


TSA Official Andrea McCauley9-11 changed the way airline passengers used to be able to show up at the airport: 15 minutes before a flight and still catch a plane. You may soon able to make up time thanks to new technology being tested for the next 2 months at Bush Airport. Two types of advanced imaging technology called milimeter and backscatter, gives passengers at terminal E a choice. Andrea McCauley is with the Transportation Security Administration.

“Backscatter uses ionizing rays that scan the body, while milimeter waves uses electromagnetic waves which are both harmless waves, but gives us an opportunity to scan the passenger very quickly, and the TSA has also implemented a number of filters in order to maintain the privacy nof the passenger, but it does help us do two things: enhance security and maintain the privacy of that passenger, while quickly and efficiently getting them through the checkpoint.”

The security officer who assists the passenger through the screening process never sees the image the technology produces. The scanned image is viewed remotely by a separate security officer who cannot see the traveler. Passengers will still need to empty their pockets and take their shoes off before going through the checkpoint. McCauley says the new technology benefits anyone who’ve had a hip or knee implant.

“They’ve had issues of alarming the walk-through metal detector. In this way, they typically don’t alarm the milimeter wave or the backscatter, and its been very customer friendly. Actually, we’ve seen that over 99 percent of passengers choose this over the pat-down.”

A passenger demonstrates the new scanning processWith two hip implants, passenger Bruce Brenneman knows the frustration of setting off the alarm.

“I have to go through security, I just plan for it, and the scatter technology, I think is great. They had it in Phoenix when it worked.”

Other passengers I talked to liked the new technology.

“Some people have to get stopped and take off all their jewelry, I mean, the person in front of me actually had all that. And they had to be stopped so, something like that would work pretty well!”

Passenger: “They ought to screen everybody, it keeps us safer.”

Passenger: “I think probably in time they’ll have technology where we don’t have to do anything but stand there and they can read everything.”

The TSA will gauge public acceptance of the new technology. For now, both scanners are 100 percent optional for passengers at terminal E at Bush.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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