Is this really a better checkpoint?

We thought you’d be interested in hearing directly from an officer first hand how some of the new technologies we’re putting in airports is affecting the job and in turn passengers’ experiences.

Below is the first installment of these first hand accounts. Enjoy:

“Are you kidding?” was my immediate answer. And it was the plain truth. It was how I answered the question “Is this really a better checkpoint?” from the most recent group of VIP’s that were touring the checkpoint where I work.

We have seen plenty of them recently. I work at BWI airport’s Pier B where two years ago Southwest Airlines redid the entire wing of the airport and in the last two months TSA has installed the Checkpoint Evolution.

There is a lot I like about it. And while the uniforms, badges, mood lights and music grab a lot of attention, for me the star of the show is the new X-ray machines.

We call them "ATIX" on the floor. Google that and you get the formal name “Advanced Threat Identification X-rays.” We got Baltimore’s first two at my pier and the whole airport gets them by June. TSA’s Web site says that we bought hundreds more to install nationwide this year.

Not much of that matters to me. What does matter is how much better my 30 minute rotation at the X-Ray is now. Start with the screens. High resolution flat screen monitors make picking stuff out tons easier. Plus they look right. Nobody will miss squinting into those huge, heavy 1982-era computer screens that look like they belong in a museum.

And we are probably doing only half the bag checks we used to because we now have two angles to view the bag. Plus we don’t need a TSO to lug the bag back to the front to rerun it anymore because the officer physically searching the bag has the same view as the officer doing the first screening. It is not as good as the COBRA machine we tested here last year that lets you spin the image on the screen. But it is very good and is a big step forward from where we were.

The automatic threat boxes help too. They pick up items we may not have focused our attention on that could possibly be explosives. This is just another tool that helps us do our job better.

On the downside, it is not lightning fast. And I’m not as fast with it as I was with the old X-Ray machines. Not yet. But in the meantime I will take the tradeoff any day. And so would any passenger that trusts us with their safety.

Paula Furman

EoS Blog Contributor

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