Nation & World

TSA expands program using 3D X-rays

Tomography has been tested at 13 airports

In this March 31, 2011, file photograph, long lines of impatient travelers wind their way towards their journey by first passing through several TSA checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 1. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
In this March 31, 2011, file photograph, long lines of impatient travelers wind their way towards their journey by first passing through several TSA checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 1. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

The Transportation Security Administration is so pleased with a program to test three-dimension X-ray technology for carry-on bag screening at airports that it’s increasing plans to buy the new technology starting next year, the agency chief told Congress.

TSA is testing computed tomography X-rays, which shoot hundreds of images of a bag from different angles, at 13 airports and expects to buy 200 of them within a year, David Pekoske told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Wednesday.

When the program was announced in late July, the agency estimated it would buy 145 of the devices.

Pekoske called the CT devices a “huge improvement.” Instead of the two images produced by existing X-ray machines, CT machines provide vastly improved views of the interior of a bag and also may someday be able to be programmed to automatically detect liquid explosives and weapons.

“I’ve watched them in operation,” Pekoske said. “They are a significant enhancement in security effectiveness.

“And I’ve also watched passengers actually self-align behind the CT machines because it’s a better passenger experience. Passengers are not required to take as many things out of their carry-on bags.”

CT technology long has been used for medical purposes and it’s also how the TSA screens checked bags that go in aircraft cargo areas.

But it hasn’t been until recent improvements in computer power that the technology has been feasible for the screening lanes.

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