'Checkpoint of the Future' Makes Debut at New York City Airport

With 40 air jets blasting away, the latest airport security device sounds something like a Jacuzzi running without water.

But even though the high-tech detection portal, unveiled yesterday at Kennedy Airport's Terminal 1, is not designed to soothe the body -- it should ease tensions about possible terrorists.

The gusts of air shake loose particles from passengers' clothes and bodies. The molecules are then sucked into a vent near your feet and instantly analyzed for more than 40 types of explosives.

"Firing jets," a digitized female voice announces.

While the puffs of air can be heard, they are barely felt. The only spray that gives a brief sensation is the one that hits your head.

If nothing suspicious shows up on the monitor, the whole procedure takes about 20 seconds.

"This is really part of the checkpoint of the future," said Transportation Security Administration spokesman Mark Hatfield, standing near the device.

The machine can also be configured to trace more than 40 types of narcotics.

At Terminal 1 -- a large venue that services 11 international airlines, including Air France and Lufthansa -- only passengers who end up in the lane with the machine will be screened.

"It's very fast and it's very tried-and-true technology and it's noninvasive," said Hasbrouk Miller, vice president of Smiths Detection, the manufacturer of the apparatus.

The $150,000 Ionscan Sentinel II will be in one lane of the Terminal 1 security check for 90 days. Officials will monitor and collect data that tests its usefulness and efficiency.

"We've seen such good results, we're likely to see these machines deployed on a fairly routine basis in the very near future," said Hatfield.

Kennedy is the sixth and largest airport in the country to get the device on a trial basis. TSA officials are planning to try them at nine other airports within the year.

Miller said the machines also are in use at major nuclear facilities and popular tourist destinations worldwide.

The Statue of Liberty has a similar General Electric model that scans visitors.

ome travelers at Kennedy welcomed the futuristic addition to the already time-consuming security check process.

"Anything that can be done to make people safer is fine," said Peter Laucks, 24, who was on his way to Beijing. "As long as it doesn't interfere with getting on the flight, I'm happy with it."