Orlando Int'l Airport Tests Shoe-Scanning Device

If successful, the machine will eliminate the need for air travelers to take off their shoes for security checks.

Passengers at Orlando International Airport on Monday got the first glimpse of a new machine that could alleviate the need for people to remove their shoes at security checkpoints.

Customers of Orlando's registered-traveler program, known as Clear, will be the test group for the new shoe-scanning machine that checks for explosives and metal weapons while also verifying members' identities.

The Transportation Security Administration will evaluate the results of the test and decide whether the machines are effective enough to allow passengers to keep their shoes on.

Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said the official test is scheduled to begin Wednesday. On Monday, some passengers were asked to step on the shoe-scanning device as part of practice tests.

Verified Identity Pass Inc., the operator of Clear, developed the machine through a partnership with General Electric.

If successful, the machine could offer the first time-saving element to the registered-traveler program, expected to begin in several other U.S. airports by the end of the year.

During the test phase, Clear customers who have their shoes scanned will still be required to remove them at the checkpoint as a precaution while the new technology is evaluated.

Checking thick-soled and unusually shaped shoes for weapons and explosives gained more attention after Richard Reid attempted to light his explosive-laden shoe on fire during an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

Customers of the Clear program, which now operates only in Orlando, pay a yearly $79.95 fee and provide biometric information such as fingerprints and iris scans in exchange for a card that allows them to jump to the front of the security line.

Those customers, though, must still go through the same security procedures as other passengers such as removing shoes, taking laptops out of bags and removing suit jackets.

Verified ID has said it would establish a minimum of $200,000 at each participating airport to spend on new security technology such as the shoe-scanner if approved by TSA.

The company is working with airports in San Jose, Calif., Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Toronto to install programs later this year.

Copyright: The Orlando Sentinel -- 7/19/06

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