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M.I.S.S. Jet Set: Sexy Airport X-Ray Machine


Okay, sexy may be overstating it, but if you’ve flown recently you may have noticed – or been through – one of the new TSA x-ray screening machines at the airport security checkpoint. Or perhaps you’ve been following the controversy in the news about whether or not the new technology is a breach of privacy, too sensational, or yes, sexy. Whatever the case, here’s what you need to know about the x-ray machines rolling into airports.

New technology: X-ray machines for airport security

Official name: Millimeter wave; Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units

What it is: Non-invasive whole body imaging technology

Where it is: As of the end of 2010, a total of 450 AIT units were deployed, with more U.S. airports receiving them after

What it does: X-ray scans passengers going through security checkpoint, identifying metal detection and any weapons on the person; acts as an alternative to full body pat-down

What you do: Step into the machine, turn to the side with hands placed above head. As per normal airport security screening, you should remove belt, shoes, jacket, large jewelry or anything that would normally set off the metal detector and empty pockets before crossing through this point in the checkpoint. TSA officers will let you know when you can step out and when you are cleared.

How it works: An x-ray image is taken of you inside the machine and monitored by a TSA agent in a separate and private room. The TSA agent identifies any weapons on your body as well as anything on you that may trigger a detector and needs to be checked (i.e. a whole mess of bobby pins in your hair). A TSA agent at the machine signals you when the scan is complete and you can step out, and again when you are security-cleared. The agent in the private room monitoring the x-rays communicates by 2-way radio with the agents at the security checkpoint where you are.

Example of x-ray scan only seen by TSA officer in remote location

What you need to know:

– The actual scan takes about 2.5 seconds.

– An additional 15-45 seconds are taken while you wait on footprint mats and the TSA agent who sees x-rays checks your x-ray image and radios the verdict to security agent with you at checkpoint.

– If there is something suspicious on you, the x-ray viewer agent will tell the agent with you where to look – so instead of a full body pat-down because you set off a metal detector, the gate security agent will be told to look in your hair if your bobby pins are showing up on the x-ray. They will just check the flagged spots as seen on the x-ray.

– Yes, the x-ray exposes you for further viewing (see above image to get a feel for exactly how racy it is).

– No, nobody gets to see this x-ray besides the TSA officer in the private screening room. This officer is not allowed to bring in anything to the remote location (including recording devices), so no photos will be snapped of your x-ray and no other eyes are ever on it. TSA will not keep, store or transmit images.

For more information, check out TSA’s articles and related links on the technology.

Image Layout: C-Rocka

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