BANGOR, Maine — Almost four years after new advanced imaging technology scanners were introduced nationally at larger airports, Bangor International Airport has joined the club.
“This is really the world’s best available technology to screen a passenger for any metallic or nonmetallic items that may be concealed under clothing,” said Ann Davis, the Transportation Security Administration’s Northeast Region public affairs manager. “It’s safe, efficient, and it points out the necessity for passengers to divest themselves of everything that’s not paper or tissues.”
The new machine, which costs around $140,000, has been in limited use for only a week, but the reaction has been almost universally positive from passengers flying to and from Bangor, according to Tony Caruso Jr., BIA’s assistant airport director.
“We’re excited that this unit is finally here in Bangor and up and running,” he said. “Passengers realize they have a choice if they prefer to still go through the traditional magnetometer, but the majority of folks traveling through so far seem to prefer the new scanner.”
Caruso and other BIA officials had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new ProVision ATD scanner.
“So far, it seems to have streamlined the security process a lot and increased our efficiency,” Caruso said, noting that carry-on bags still have to be scanned or searched the traditional way.
The new 4-foot-wide, 9-foot-tall scanner uses electromagnetic waves so there is no danger of radiation exposure, according to Davis. She said there are also no personal privacy issues related to body types or too-graphic images which dogged previous scanner systems. That’s because the screen images of the scanned passengers are nondescript humanoid outlines or silhouettes with yellow icons representing potential items of concern.
“The TSA has worked very hard to address personal privacy concerns of travelers,” said Davis. “This system utilizes a computer-generated, generic avatar of a human form that’s identical for every person.”
The positive reaction from BIA patrons seems to fall in line with that of passengers nationwide.
“Passengers largely are very excited about the machines because they’re quick, efficient and less intrusive, particularly for people who have had things like hip and knee replacements, which do not show up on these scans,” Davis said. “Most passengers, given a choice, prefer the new scanning option to the rate of about 90 percent.”
The scanner, which requires three TSA personnel to run, is due to go from limited to full-time use within the next week.
“We’ll have a fully trained staff to have it running 24 hours a day within a week,” Caruso said.
Davis said Bangor’s is one of about 500 scanners being deployed at U.S. airports this year, with another 500 scheduled to go into use in 2013.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who has been calling for technology to enhance traveler privacy, welcomed the BIA upgrade.
“I am pleased that the Bangor International Airport now has a safe scanning alternative that does not use X-rays that emit potentially harmful radiation,” Collins said in a press release.