NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport debuts new TSA scannerSubmitted: 05/18/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com

Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport debuts new TSA scanner
RHINELANDER - The first steps to board Delta Flight 7414 from Rhinelander to Minneapolis started the same way as usual Thursday morning.  But instead of going through the old metal detector, passengers took a new path after some specific instructions.

"We really knew what to expect," Jean Davidson said, on her way to Phoenix, Arizona.

The TSA put air travelers through the newly installed AIT-2 scanner, which went in May 10.  The machine runs a full-body scan using millimeter wave technology.  It produces a "cookie cutter" outline, which pinpoints any spot where someone might be hiding a weapon or device.


"Anything we can do to keep us safer, we've got to really appreciate it," Davidson said.

The AIT-2 doesn't eliminate, but largely cuts down on the need for pat downs from false positives, like those that appear from replacement joints. Rhinelander's scanner is now one of about 860 AIT units stationed at 258 U.S. airports.

"The screening that they're undergoing is going to be identically the same here in the United States," Wisconsin's TSA Federal Security Director Mark Lendvay said. "It takes time, it takes the funding and training of our officers, but at some point we'll have a pretty good, 100-percent baseline standard from a technology standpoint regardless of the size of the community the airport's located."

Lendvay says the new scanner emits waves that are 1,000 times less than international energy limits. But it doesn't replace TSA officers altogether. Anytime an item is found, a targeted pat down is still required. In those cases, an officer of the same sex as a passenger will conduct the pat down. Travelers are given the option to go in a secure, private area for the pat down.

"Very difficult [to replace humans]," Lendvay said. "You still need what we consider the human factor of the officer coming in and resolving... This ensures that we're maintaining privacy associated with the screening process."

The TSA says the scanner is more effective and efficient than metal detectors. It only takes three or four seconds to actually scan a passenger. In addition, the device is completely federally funded, coming at no cost to Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.

"We're patient, we're glad we have it," Airport Director Joe Brauer said.

Brauer knew smaller terminals like his would need to wait to get this technology, which debuted in 2010. But with an install that only took about an hour, Brauer says safety was instantly upgraded.

"It's good for our travelers, it's good for the airport and it's basically good for aviation," Brauer said.

The scanner marks the start of a new process making the screening at small, "gateway" airports like Rhinelander's better, offering peace of mind to travelers headed to bigger hubs.

"It's the small places [terrorists] can hit, which we don't even expect, so it's very important," Davidson said before boarding her flight.

The TSA is working to get the exact same technology in all commercial airports, regardless of size. The agency expects to only need to update the software, which means the units should last several years.

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