The Transportation Security Administration today will unveil the first new bomb-detection device in airports since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – machines that blow air at passengers and “sniff” for explosives. The agency is testing the machines to find out whether they work well enough to install them at every airport in the USA. Airports in Providence, Tampa, San Diego and Rochester, N.Y., will test the detectors for 45 days, TSA officials told USA TODAY.
If the machines prove practical, they will help close a gap in security. Travelers now pass through metal detectors, and their carry-on bags are X-rayed, but most people boarding a plane are not searched for explosives. Tests indicate that the machines would have caught “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who attempted to destroy an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001. Reid passed through security with explosives hidden in his sneakers; other passengers stopped him when he tried to light the bomb’s fuse. Security experts and TSA officials say it’s unlikely the bomb-detection machines could be used anytime soon to screen every passenger because they would create lengthy delays. The tests will give authorities a better sense of how widely the machines could be used and how they would affect lines at security screening checkpoints.