New air-blow explosive detection devices installed at airports

Published 28 November 2005

Security at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will be tighter and, well, breezier. Phone-booth size machines which check for explosives by blowing air at passengers will be installed by the end of this month at Concourse C in Terminal 1 and Concourse H in Terminal 4. They will become operational by mid-December. The GE-made machines, officially called Explosives Trace Portals (and, informally, puffer machines), cost $160,000 each and are sort of mini vertical wind tunnels: They puff air at passengers, from ankles to neck, in the process dislodging explosive particles. The air is sucked into the ceiling, where a computer can detect even a billionth of a gram of explosives. The total process takes about twelve seconds per passenger. The devices will be used primarily for secondary screenings if travelers set off metal detector alarms. Passengers will also be asked randomly to walk through the machines. The technology should reduce the need for pat-down searches and make the security process more efficient, TSA officials said. The new devices are already in use at Miami and Palm Beach international airports. The TSA plans to install the machines at the busiest U.S. commercial airports.

-read more in this report; see “puffer” details at this GE Web page

The GE puffer machine