Best of Aviation Queen – Shoes And Laptop And Drinks — Oh My: Why Are We Still Behind On Airport Security Technology?

The Cobra EDS machine tested at BWI Airport.  Photo by Benet J. Wilson

During my time as airports/security editor for Aviation Week, I spent a lot of time writing and blogging about checkpoint technology designed to get passengers through the process as quickly as possible.  I was particularly focused on how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was testing x-ray machines that would allow people to keep their laptops in their bags and studying technology that would allow travelers to carry more than 3.4 oz bottles of liquids past security.

Back in October 2007, I did this post on AvWeek’s Towers and Tarmacs blog about how New Mexico’s Los Alamos Laboratory was looking at how Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) could be used at airport security checkpoints to scan bags and liquids.  Back then, TSA officials were hoping they could start testing that technology in 2008.  We’re still waiting.

I write all this because of a post on Forbes’ business travel blog — Want To Carry Drinks Through Airport Security? This Machine Could Let You.  It discusses how Japanese airports are using Bottled Liquid Checkers (BLC) to scan for potential hazards — and have been for years.  A TSA spokesman told the writer what they told me five years ago — that they continue to work on technology to allow them to move past the liquids ban.

I’ve traveled outside the country regularly since tighter security was put in place after 9/11.  And I’ve seen all kinds of security that allows passengers to keep their shoes and coats on and laptops in their bags.  And I know TSA has been working on policies, procedures and technology to stick with their security mandate but also  make the process easier for travelers. So here’s my question — 11 years after transforming security, why does it feel like we’re still in the same place?

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