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Colorado Springs airport adds modernized security scanning machine

September 5, 2014
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photo - Colorado Springs Airport Senior Office Specialist Clara Hunt, right, demonstrates the airport's new full-body scanner Thursday, September 4, 2014. The Advanced Imaging Technology scans passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats including explosives. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Colorado Springs Airport Senior Office Specialist Clara Hunt, right, demonstrates the airport's new full-body scanner Thursday, September 4, 2014. The Advanced Imaging Technology scans passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats including explosives. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Colorado Springs Airport added a security scanning machine that brings it up to date with airports nationwide.

The Advanced Imaging Technology unit, which will be ready for full use Sept. 10, allows for easier and more localized detection of metallic and nonmetallic items, said Sam Sheesley, an assistant security director for the Transportation Security Administration, at an airport news conference Thursday. "TSA's job is to keep the traveling public safe," he said. "And the use of Advanced Imaging Technology is another important layer to mitigate known and evolving threats."

About 2,000 travelers come through Colorado Springs Airport daily, he said.

After the news conference, airport employees Clara Hunt, a senior office specialist, and George Andrews, a transportation security manager, went through the scanner multiple times to demonstrate. They entered the machine, put their hands above their heads during the scanning, while the machine emitted electromagnetic waves.

If the machine detects something abnormal, an image of a generic person is displayed on the screen and shows a spot on the person's body where the item is. That allows TSA agents, Sheesley said, to have a more targeted approach when searching travelers. If nothing out of the ordinary is detected, a green "OK" sign appears.

Sheesley said the machine does not emit X-rays and instead uses "millimeter wave technology," which he said is "over 1,000 times less" than international guidelines. Passengers have the option of opting out of using the machine, he said, and can request an alternate screening and pat-down.

The TSA bought machines in September 2011 that included software without "passenger-specific images," the organization said. There are about 730 units in more than 150 airports nationwide. The specific unit for the Colorado Springs airport was purchased by the TSA for about $160,000 and installed about 10 days ago. Additional training is needed before the machine will be employed.

The unit installed at the airport is not the city's only AIT machine. The 4th Judicial District courthouse in downtown Colorado Springs is also home to one of the few AIT units domestically that is not in an airport, according to the TSA.

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Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0275

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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