Industry Tries To Stay Ahead Of In-Flight Electronics Bans

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Industry Tries To Stay Ahead Of In-Flight Electronics Bans

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is one TSA test site for new advanced bomb detection equipment.


While terrorists seek to use common electronics to take down airliners, the industry and government agencies are working feverishly to find ways to better detect explosives and allow passengers to continue to use their devices aboard flights.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently announced that it is testing “computed tomography scanners” at an airport security checkpoint in Phoenix. “Computed tomography (CT) checkpoint scanning equipment aims to enhance threat detection capability by providing a three-dimensional image that can be viewed and rotated for a more thorough analysis,” the TSA said in a press statement.

In partnership with American Airlines, TSA is conducting the demonstration through its Innovation Task Force at one checkpoint lane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). “This partnership is the first to launch this state-of-the-art technology,” TSA said. The agency will test the same equipment at a checkpoint lane at Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) later this month.

“The safety and security of travelers is the number one priority of TSA and our partnership with industry is critical in helping develop innovative and critical security enhancements,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia. “We already use this type of technology for checked baggage, and we expect these smaller checkpoint-sized machines will provide the same high level of security.”

The new CT screening equipment shoots hundreds of images with an X-ray camera that spins around the conveyor belt to provide a 3D picture of a carry-on bag to ensure it does not contain a threat. If a bag requires additional screening, TSA officers will open and inspect it to ensure that a threat item is not contained inside.

Passengers transiting through Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor and Terminal E at Boston Logan may be asked to volunteer for screening using this technology.

At the same time, the aviation industry is responding to the slowed traffic and air passenger inconvenience created since this March when the United States government began banning electronics in flight from airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

"We need to get security right," IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said in a keynote speech at the International Air Transport Association’s recent Annual General Meeting. During his remarks, de Juniac expressed concern for current measures by agencies like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to ban electronic devices onboard flights.

DHS has been discussing the possibility of expanding the electronic ban to more flights departing from countries in Europe. "There is a clear duty to make sure that the measures are logical, effective and efficient. That is not the case with the current ban, and it must change" he said during his speech.

At its meeting, IATA passed a resolution urging nations, member airlines and other members of the aviation industry to combine forces in developing more effective security measures, and working more closely with nations considering new rules.

At the meeting, IATA officials discussed additional measures stakeholders can take to reduce the likelihood of expanded electronics bans.

These could include deploying more and better explosive detection equipment like tomography scanners and other technology that can detect trace amounts of bomb-making materials. IATA also said it supports anti-tampering tools for electronic devices, and for government agencies to more closely screen passenger manifests.

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