American Airlines on Thursday began the first U.S. test of new airport-security scanners that provide a more detailed view inside carry-on luggage and may allow travelers to keep laptops in their bags.
The CT scanner, using technology borrowed from the medical world, is being used in a security checkpoint lane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Fort Worth-based airline said in a statement. The testing, at Terminal Four, is being conducted with the Transportation Security Administration.
The experiment comes as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers whether to expand a ban on electronic devices in airliner cabins that began on some international routes in March. CT scanners are better than existing X-ray devices at detecting explosives, meaning that at some point they could enable passengers to leave laptops, other electronics and possibly even liquids in their bags, vastly simplifying airport security.
“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,” TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia said in the statement.
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A widespread rollout could take some time. Following previous failed introductions of new equipment, the Transportation Security Administration requires many layers of tests. Also, Congress hasn’t appropriated funds for large purchases of new devices, which cost several hundred thousand dollars apiece and would require $1 billion or more to install at thousands of security lines in the U.S.
The machines use computed tomography scanning to create a high-definition, three-dimensional view inside a bag. The image can be rotated for a thorough study and bags can be examined layer by layer. The scanner tested by American was manufactured by L3 Technologies.
The March ban, covering flights from 10 Middle East and North Africa airports to the U.S., followed concern that terrorists had devised ways to hide explosives in laptops or other electronic devices larger than a mobile phone. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has considered expanding the ban to Europe.
The TSA has sanctioned a second test at Boston’s Logan International Airport, using a CT scanner made by Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, Joseph Paresi, the company’s chief executive officer, said by email. That machine was installed earlier this month and TSA screeners are being trained to use it, Paresi said. The device already is undergoing tests in Amsterdam.
If the tests are successful, American and the TSA may deploy CT scanners to other checkpoint locations, American said.