Tuesday, June 27, 2017

American Airlines to Test 3-D Bag Screening Equipment: New machines aim to better detect threats in laptops

The Wall Street Journal
By Susan Carey
June 27, 2017 6:18 p.m. ET

American Airlines Group Inc. is testing new machines that map the contents of hand luggage with more detailed scans than current equipment, aiming to address heightened concerns over explosive devices that could be carried onto a plane.

American said Tuesday that the eight machines it is purchasing from Analogic Corp. for $6 million can measure the density of a bag’s contents and map them in three dimensions. Those capabilities, American and Analogic and said, could help airlines detect explosives or detonators hidden inside laptops and other small electronics.

For three months the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been considering whether to expand a ban on laptops and other devices in aircraft cabins, after intelligence suggested terrorists were working to smuggle explosives onto planes that way. The DHS banned devices on U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa in March.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has suggested a broader ban that could cover all flights to the U.S. from Europe or all international flights in and out of the U.S. DHS has told European Union officials that airlines there may need to do additional security screening to avoid an electronics ban. Such steps could be implemented over time, a DHS spokesman said, and final plans haven’t been set.

American began testing one of the more powerful screening devices in Phoenix this month with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. Most U.S. airports and many overseas already use the technology to screen checked luggage. The technology, similar to a medical CT scan, is called “computed tomography” and hasn’t been used for carry-on bags in the U.S.

TSA intends to test a similar machine from another manufacturer at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Steve Karoly, a TSA acting assistant administrator, said in a recent interview that the agency tested this technology with carry-on bags several years ago. But the scanners were large, costly and required a lot of power to operate. “The technology has just blossomed in the past year,” Mr. Karoly said.

It isn’t clear how long TSA’s review of the new machines could last. Airlines can’t use some aviation screening technology unless it is on the TSA-approved list of vendors.

Analogic, a Peabody, Mass., company that also makes medical-imaging equipment, said it hopes to start selling the devices later this year if they are certified by the TSA and international agencies.

American said the new scanners could make it possible for passengers to leave liquids, gels and laptops in their carry-on bags.


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