Pittsburgh Airport Adds More Security with Walk-Through Explosives Detector

TSA rolls out explosives detection 'puffer', to use on select passengers


Oct. 13--FINDLAY TWP. -- Air travelers can prepare for the puff. Starting today, another layer of security is being added to Pittsburgh International Airport, sparing most passengers from pat-downs by federal Transportation Security Administration screeners. Only selected passengers -- those who, to this point, had been sent to separate lines for pat-downs and wanding -- will be funneled through the new high-tech explosives detector, said JoAnn Jenny, airport spokeswoman.

"This will eliminate the pat-downs for the bulk of people traveling out of Pittsburgh," said Darrin Kayser, TSA spokesman. He expected the new machine to make security screening more efficient and more customer friendly. The TSA is sticking with its goal of having passengers spend no more than 10 minutes to pass through security. The explosives detector looks like a metal doorframe, as do existing metal detectors at the airport checkpoint. Passengers must stand still for a few seconds while the detector releases several bursts of air. A computerized voice will tell passengers when they can step out of the doorway.

The puffs of air -- and any particles dislodged by them -- are analyzed for traces of explosives, Kayser said.

Kayser, who has been through the "puffer," said the machine's bursts of air feel like sprays of canned air, used to clean computer keyboards, from about a foot away. The breeze, strong enough to ruffle the hair, starts at the head and moves down the body. "It's not going to knock you over," he said, and is child safe. Travelers who "smell" of explosives will have additional screening, including a pat-down, Kayser said.

These passengers could include heart patients who take nitroglycerin tablets and others on certain prescription drugs. "It's always a good idea to travel with those (medications) in the original bottle," Kayser said.

Some TSA officials also have suggested bringing along prescriptions. To this point, random searches and pat-downs have been the only means of checking Pittsburgh passengers for explosives. The TSA introduced these explosive detectors in 14 cities nationwide, starting in June. Pittsburgh is in the second wave of cities to receive the detectors.

Beaver County Times (PA) (KRT) -- 10/17/05