"We've got a lot of different technologies piloting," she said. "Any one layer alone can be gamed in some way."
Using a combination of pre-9/11 and newer equipment, the TSA now screens all checked luggage for metal and explosives that give off vapors or smells. But other screening devices have been introduced only selectively because of their cost and technological glitches; the puffers, for example, can become contaminated by particles and dust.
And the TSA has yet to showcase technology to detect liquid explosives, which are enclosed in containers that give off no vapors or smells and often are made up of substances that by themselves are harmless.
It wasn't clear from yesterday's test -- conducted at midday on a Wednesday in October -- how well the Auto-EDS system would work at peak flight times. Passengers moved through the checkpoint in about the same amount of time as at nearby checkpoints with X-ray machines, though they might have gone through faster if the flow hadn't been hampered by clustered reporters and TV cameras. Analogic says the system can process 400 bins or bags per hour with a conveyor speed of 20 feet per minute.
"It wasn't a full-tilt operation today," Kudwa said.
Not having flown since the Sept. 11 attacks, Towson resident Vira Froehlinger had heard horror stories from her children about long security lines and delayed planes. So the child psychologist was pleasantly surprised to move swiftly through the checkpoint en route to Orlando, Fla., for a conference yesterday.
Froehlinger, 79, would have kept her toiletries in her carry-on if she had known her bag would go through the new scanner.
"I expected a nightmare, but it's moving so quickly," she said. "It's fantastic."
Copyright (c) 2007, The Baltimore Sun Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.