A Day in the Life of an Airport Screener

When you spend eight-plus hours a day standing watch at an airport security checkpoint, you learn a few things about the traveling public.

And oddly, for reasons he has yet to discern, lots of harmonicas. (They're just fine.) --- E-mail

TSA lingo -- the abbreviated version

Like many bureaucracies, the Transportation Security Administration has defined an alphabet soup of abbreviations. A guide to the lingo:

TSO Transportation Security Officer. The airport personnel who scan bags and bodies ETD Explosive Trace Detection equipment. Reads swabs taken from items to detect trace amounts of explosives IED Improvised Explosive Device. An explosive that can be assembled once past security with seemingly innocuous components, hence the recent ban on liquids and gels. Explosive Detection System. Scans for explosives in checked bags. VAP Voluntarily Abandoned Property. Banned items stopped at security checkpoints. The most common are cigarette lighters (37,000 a day, nationwide), which are disposed of as hazardous waste. Non-hazardous items are given to state agencies for surplus property. ETP Explosive Trace Portal, aka puffer or puff portal. A machine that dispenses puffs of air and analyzes for traces of explosives

TSA by the numbers


Year TSA was created

$6.2 billion

The agency's annual budget


Current number of screeners


Number of screeners in 2002

$23,000 to $56,400

2 million

Average number of airport screenings daily, nationwide

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