Biloxi, Miss., Airport to Try Electronic Bomb-Sniffing Machine

GULFPORT, Miss. -- Airline passengers will be electronically "sniffed" by a new machine designed to detect explosives of the sheet type believed to have been smuggled aboard two destroyed Russian jet liners.

Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is one of five of the nation's 400 airports selected to test the walk-through machine, called EntryScan, which uses an ion trap mobility spectrometer to detect a wide range of explosives.

"It's giving us more of an opportunity to test for explosives," said Patrick E. Baroco, federal security director for Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

"We'll be putting passengers through it next week."

During this evaluation, the $130,000 machine will be checked to see how well it works and what effect it has on the speed passengers move through the terminal.

The machine requires 15 to 20 seconds to work. During the testing period, some passengers might be allowed to bypass the machine, if inspections move slowly.

"If the line gets long, we can divert people around it," said Baroco. "Nobody's going to miss their plane."

In tests, the machine is very accurate. However, it could make a false positive reading on someone who has been firing a weapon or handling nitroglycerin heart medication. If the machine finds explosive residue on a passenger, that passenger will be carefully searched.

Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee, requested that the Transportation Security Administration test the system in Gulfport, the only place where a single machine will be tested.

"You need to put it in all kinds of different airports," said Bruce Frallic, executive director of Gulfport-Biloxi.

The machine works by releasing a puff of air from below that is tested in a sensor.

Said Baroco, "The passengers will get used to it."