The problem with new threats to aviation is that every time there is another threat, we get a new box at the checkpoint. At some point, we’re going to run out of space before we run out of threats.
While many in the industry, particularly TSA Federal Security Directors (FSD), are excited about the deployment of the whole body imagers, there are just as many people who are trying to figure out where to put them — they are called Airport Security Coordinators (ASC).
See, FSD’s work for the TSA and oversee all security functions at an airport, which includes making sure the airport and air carriers follow their security programs. However, ASC’s are the actual airport employees who write the security programs and must ensure the airport carries it out. They are also the ones who will be impacted by the deployment of the whole body imagers (WBI).
The WBI’s are about 3x as large as a walk-thru metal detector and take about 10x as long to process a passenger. There are two issues here. First, space. Second, time.
After 9/11, airport operators had to figure out how to massively increase the size of the security screening checkpoint (SSCP) to accommodate the larger security screening staffs, the additional equipment and the longer lines. Floors had to be reinforced to accommodate explosive detection systems and underground, baggage systems had to be completely re-engineered.
Now we have the WBI’s. Checkpoints must expand. It will be the problem of the airport operator to figure out how to make that happen. Walls may have to come down. Revenue producing areas may have to be acquired and used to expand the checkpoints even more. Federal money will not be forthcoming for all of this. Airports have to figure out how to find the cash.
The additional problem is the time it takes for people to go through the checkpoint. Whatever projection you hear in terms of how long people think it will take, double it. These things take a lot longer to process a passenger. Lines will get longer, the screening process will slow down.
What’s the solution? As an aviation security expert, I agree with the use of WBI’s, however, we don’t have to completely bankrupt the airports in trying to accommodate all this new technology, nor do we have to inconvenience millions of travelers. A few WBI’s should be deployed to each commercial service airport, and then behavior detection officers and experts should decide who will undergo the WBI process. If we take this approach, there is no need to replace every metal detector with a WBI — airports will not have to make huge modifications and screening will not slow down nearly as much.