Government to Install Puffer Machines at 10 More Airports

Explosives detection systems continue to gain prominence thanks to TSA backing


WASHINGTON -- Security checks where travelers are patted down will end for many people at 10 more airports by summer's end, the government said Wednesday.

Passengers will see "puffer" machines that can detect explosives residue when people walk through. Airport screeners will not have to pat down people to make sure they are not carrying hidden bombs. But the new equipment may not be installed at every checkpoint at those airports.

Travelers selected for secondary screening will be asked to step into a walkthrough portal at the checkpoint. They will stand still for a few seconds while air is puffed onto them.

The machine then collects and analyzes the air for traces of explosives. A computerized voice tells the passengers when they can continue.

The machines have been used for years in power plants and military installations in the United States and Europe.

The Transportation Security Administration began testing last year in five airports to see if the machines would work without slowing down screening. Nine airports were later added. The agency plans to add 100 more machines by January so the 40 busiest airports will have them.

The airports set to get the machines this summer are: Charlotte, N.C., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Newark, N.J., Palm Beach, Fla., Pittsburgh, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York's LaGuardia Airport and both Dulles and Reagan National in Washington, D.C.

The first five to get them were Rochester, N.Y., Providence, R.I., San Diego, Tampa, Fla., and Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.

Airports in Baltimore, Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport also have the machines.

The TSA said it will buy 25 machines from New Jersey-based Smiths Detection for $3.2 million and 19 from General Electric Corp. for $3.2 million.