LAX Gets Improved Screening Machines

Federal authorities at Los Angeles International Airport are installing a new set of X-ray machines that will allow security screeners to get a better look at what's inside carry-on luggage.

The new Rapiscan 620 DV produces a clear, high-definition color X- ray image that will improve screeners' ability to detect weapons, bombs and other suspicious items stashed inside a traveler's bag, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The machines cost about $125,000 each and will allow the 2,200 security screeners at LAX to zoom in on specific items that catch their attention.

Officials began installing the new X-ray machines late last month and hope to have the devices working at every security checkpoint in all of LAX's terminals in a few weeks, Melendez said.

"The new technology enables our security officers to perform their functions flawlessly," he said. "This will make it easier for our people to identify objects ... while also detecting small components of improvised explosive devices."

A classified report leaked to the media last November found that security screeners at LAX missed about 75 percent of fake bombs during 70 tests conducted two years ago by undercover federal agents.

The classified report also found that security screeners failed to spot 60 percent of 75 fake bomb parts hidden inside carry-on bags at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, while screeners at San Francisco International Airport missed about 20 percent of fake explosives during 145 tests.

Aviation consultant Jack Keady applauded the new system, but noted that travelers should be patient as security screeners adjust to the new machines.

"More items will now show up on the screen, so the screeners will have more occasions to stop the process, open the bag and look inside," Keady said. "This will lengthen handling times and may cause the need for more screeners."

Up until now, security screeners at LAX have relied on X-ray machines that were manufactured during the 1970s. The relics scanned baggage from a single, top-down view. The new X-ray scanners will be able to collect images from various angles, Melendez said.

"This gives us multiple angles and views to give us a clear definition of what's inside the bag," he said.

The new X-ray machines were first introduced for testing at Albuquerque International Sunport airport, Washington Reagan National Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. TSA officials hope to eventually install the new system at all of the nation's airports, according to Melendez.

"This is just one more tool to ensure safety," Melendez said. "It's all about seeing threat items more clearly."

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