Westchester County Airport to debut body scanner
Westchester County Airport: to get controversial security technology this month
Published 1:40 pm, Monday, May 7, 2012
Westchester County Airport travelers, get ready for your close-up.
Body-scanning technology, which enables security agents to check airline passengers for weapons and other contraband in lieu of metal detectors and pat-downs but has also spawned controversy, will make its debut later this month at the suburban White Plains, N.Y., airport that borders Greenwich.
The airport is scheduled to take delivery of the L-3 Communications ProVision ATD human imaging machine this week, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
"We're going to maximize the use of this because this is our best tool," said Romero Iral, assistant federal security director for the TSA at the airport.
Don't expect metal detectors and pat-downs to go by the wayside, however.
"If a person really does not want to do it, they have the option to opt out," Iral said. "We will screen them individually, but to the same degree of scrutiny."
Iral emphasized that the body scanner, which costs about $170,000, is a second-generation model and is different from its predecessors that privacy-minded travelers have dubbed as "nude-o-scopes."
"You don't see any details," Iral said.
Iral noted that the newer model scanner comes equipped with a monitor that both passengers and TSA agents can see that displays a generic image of a human body.
When the machine detects an anomaly such as a metallic item, liquid or explosive, it highlights the location on the display.
During a recent visit to TSA headquarters in Arlington, Va., Iral said he was scanned with one of the machines.
"It took me all of 10 seconds," Iral said, adding that the machine detected the metal tie clip he was wearing.
Peter Scherrer, the airport's manager, is not expecting a big fuss over the advent of body-scanning technology.
"I think they've been in the system long enough and people have traveled enough," Scherrer said.
As of this January, there were 570 body-scanning units at approximately 130 airports nationwide, according to the TSA, which said that the current year's budget includes funding for the purchase of an additional 275 units.
At Westchester County Airport, the TSA is scheduled to train its agents how to use the new machine when it arrives, according to Iral, who would not disclose staffing numbers for security reasons.
To accommodate the body-scanning unit, the airport will have to rearrange the existing passenger-screening equipment at the security checkpoint.
The TSA has sought to allay fears that the units emit harmful radiation, saying that the technology meets all known national and international health and safety standards. The energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 1,000 times less than the international limits and guidelines, according to the agency.
TSA officials are still working out the logistics of incorporating the new scanner into the screening process at Westchester County Airport.
"Most of the folks actually don't mind going through there," Iral said. "In a lot of cases, it's easier."
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