With a puff of air and a sniff, the newest security machines at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport checkpoints act as robotic bomb-sniffing dogs -- and reduce the need for invasive pat-downs.
The EntryScan3 walk-through portal -- about $160,000 a pop -- "breathes in" the air around a passenger, then checks the scent for signs of explosives, said Jay Pinkert, director of marketing programs for General Electric Co. Security.
The process takes about 15 seconds and provides the Transportation Security Administration with a reliable way to search for explosives on passengers' bodies without the unpopular torso pat-downs.
Pat-downs, initiated last summer, have resulted in numerous complaints, particularly from women. They were prompted by 9-11 Commission recommendations and the August 2004 bombing of two Russian passenger jets, in which the terrorists were believed to be women concealing explosives on their bodies.
Passengers randomly selected for secondary screening are sent through the EntryScan3. If they check out there, they won't need to be patted down, said Jimmy Wooten, federal security director for TSA at D/FW.
"We've been looking at technology that duplicates what a bomb-sniffing dog does," Wooten said.
Early models looked like vacuum cleaners and were unreliable. Newer models have enhanced detection capability, officials said.
Passengers who set off the metal detector still must undergo a search with a hand wand or a pat-down to resolve the alarm, TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said.
The EntryScan3 can be programmed to sniff for any chemical residue, such as narcotics. But McCauley said the machines will be used to search only for explosives.
So far, D/FW has been allotted only four machines, enough to handle the three checkpoints in Terminal D and one checkpoint in Terminal C. Local TSA officials are lobbying for machines for Terminals A, B, E and the rest of C, Wooten said.