Chains Go Up to Prevent Airport Security Lapses

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has made changes to the security checkpoint at Pittsburgh International Airport in response to an incident last week in which a woman skirted the metal detectors and boarded a plane to Houston.

TSA officials have installed chains between the checkpoint's detectors and X-ray machines to prevent people from slipping between the two pieces of equipment.

The changes were made after an unidentified woman placed her carry-on bags on the X-ray machine and then squeezed through an open space, not more than a foot wide, between the machine and the walk-through metal detectors June 29. The TSA has said the woman did so unintentionally.

Lauren Stover, a TSA spokeswoman, said the agency eventually plans to install Plexiglas between the metal detectors and the X-ray machines to "permanently resolve any open areas" that potentially could be used to slip past security.

Allegheny County Airport Authority Executive Director Kent George, who expressed concerns last week about the TSA's response time to the security lapse, said he supports "any improvements that would alleviate this type of occurrence from ever happening again."

The TSA is also conducting an investigation to determine exactly how the woman was able to slip past screeners without going through the metal detectors and whether anyone should be disciplined as a result of the incident.

The incident occurred about 5:30 a.m. when the woman passed through the checkpoint on her way to a Continental Airlines flight to Houston. One of the screeners apparently was distracted by another traveler who triggered an alarm, allowing the woman to slip by unnoticed.

It wasn't until 6:15 a.m. that TSA officials in Pittsburgh confirmed a breach had occurred. TSA shut down the checkpoint from 7:18 to 7:32 a.m. as it searched for the woman, causing long lines to form and delays of up to 35 minutes. The woman was met by TSA officials in Houston when she got off the plane. She was interviewed and allowed to leave.