Regional Airport Unveils Security Scanner

Regional Airport Unveils Security Scanner

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Oct. 12, 2011 6:51 a.m.
By George Nelson
VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio — New scanning equipment at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport should help speed the security process for passengers as well as provide a higher degree of safety, the airport’s director of aviation said.

The 300-millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology equipment, unveiled Tuesday during a press event at the airport, also addresses privacy concerns, said James Fotenos, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The scanning equipment uses electromagnetic radio waves, which are bounced off the passenger to detect any anomalies, or “anything inconsistent” under their clothes, Fotenos said. The technology is being used at airports in Cleveland and Toledo, and will be put in place at Akron-Canton Airport later this year, he said.

Youngstown-Warren is among 29 airports nationwide where TSA announced last week it would implement the technology. So far, 500 AIT units are in place at 78 airports, and TSA last month purchased 300 of the millimeter-wave units at a total cost of $44.8 million, Fotenos said.

“It helps speed the process. It’s definitely an improved piece of equipment,” said Dan Dickten, director of aviation at the regional airport. “It’ll detect both metallic and nonmetallic objects, whether it be explosives or whatever. It should speed up [TSA’s] productivity.”

The new procedure requires passengers to remove all nonmetallic items as well as metallic items before going through the scanner, Fotenos said. Once in the scanner, the passenger is asked to stand in a designated spot and raise his or her hands above the head as the scan takes place. Personal items can be placed in carry-on luggage, which is separately scanned and inspected by TSA personnel. Passengers must also still continue to remove shoes and belts, he said. The TSA officer at the checkpoint then clears the passenger to proceed or holds the individual if something is detected that needs to be resolved.

There are “a couple of helpful” aspects about the technology, one being “obviously the privacy enhancements,” he said. “The other is this is a very quick process,” he added.

The screen uses software TSA started deploying this summer that shows officers the location of any concealed item. “It eliminates the need for a passenger-specific image,” Fotenos said.

TSA started deploying advanced imaging technology in 2007. The scanner created an image that was viewed remotely by an officer away from the checkpoint, and the two officers communicated wirelessly. “While the old system was very efficient, this does cut out the step of two officers communicating wirelessly, which takes about a second longer,” he remarked.

“Certainly the attempted attack on Christmas Day in 2009 accelerated attempts to deploy these,” he said.

The airport is in the process of upgrading its luggage conveyor system, Dickten added. Those improvements will permit the installation of a new CT-80 scanner, which will also be paid for by TSA. “Currently our TSA people have to inspect those bags one by one,” he said. Using the new scanner, only 10% of the bags should require manual inspection, he said.

Copyright 2011 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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