Chattanooga airport getting full-body scanner

Chattanooga airport getting full-body scanner

December 15th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A full body scanner is coming next week to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport passenger check points.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

POLL: What would you opt for?

Some of the biggest changes in Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport's passenger security checkpoint since 9/11 are coming by the end of the month.

The airport is to receive a full-body scanner, called an Advanced Imaging Technology machine, at the checkpoint for the first time.

The airport plans to open a second security lane during peak travel times to help speed passengers to their gates.

Terry Hart, interim airport president, said public security is among Lovell Field's core missions.

"It aligns with our customer service goals," he said.

Jon Allen, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman in Atlanta, said the machine costs about $150,000 and is paid for by the federal government.

He said the equipment is a next generation unit that's not as invasive as previous scanners.

"Now there is no longer an image specific to a person," Allen said about the unit that will be installed. "The software offers privacy enhancements."

He said TSA in September purchased the units and has started to deploy them. About 70 have been installed since then.

Airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold said that if the machine's alarm is set off, it shows a generic outline of the body with a highlighted circle where the potentially threatening item is hidden.

She said the airport has reconfigured the checkpoint area for the machine and the second lane at a cost of about $19,000.

Allen said people are selected to be scanned at random.

A traveler can elect to bypass the scanner and be subject to a thorough pat-down, he said.

Allen said that about "99 percent elect to be screened."

Airport passengers on Wednesday had mixed feelings about the scanner.

Steve Maxwell, of Charlotte, N.C., said he hates that it's needed.

"The world has changed," he added.

Kenneth Tickle of Rhea County, Tenn., said the equipment is used in Afghanistan where he was stationed in the military.

"I think it's good," he said.

TSA began deploying the imaging technology in 2007. There are about 540 scanners at more than 100 airports nationwide, Allen said. Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville airports already have them.

TSA said no additional staff will be added to the airport.