The era of dirty hair for shampoo-deprived airline passengers is a step closer to ending. A new device that can detect liquid explosives inside sealed bottles will soon be rolling off the shelf, the Transportation Security Administration announced this morning. Early results have been so positive, the agency says, that it expects to deploy up to 200 such machines in major U.S. airports by October.
The move comes after months of testing. TSA officials say they've long focused on the liquid explosive threat; in spring 2006, before the plot to blow up 10 airplanes headed from the United Kingdom to the United States was exposed, the agency began testing 10 technologies that could detect liquid explosives. The machines chosen today use a system called FIDO--presumably alluding to bomb-sniffing dogs--made by Washington, D.C.-based ICx Technologies. Their method tests chemical vapors inside bottles for traces of explosives.
Tests of FIDO have already been completed at the Miami and Newark airports; they'll continue in coming months at the Los Angeles and Las Vegas airports, where they'll probably only be at one security lane each, the TSA said. Tests begin at Boston Logan International Airport tomorrow.
Still, TSA Chief Technology Officer Michael Golden made it clear that the liquid ban in place since late summer 2006 isn't going away anytime soon.
"Though we do not anticipate changes to the liquid ban in the near future," Golden says, "this flexible, accurate new technology gives an important additional tool to our security officers."
Officials with the agency say it can be stuck inside a plastic baggie containing liquids, and if it sounds an alarm, each bottle must be removed from the bag and tested individually.
--Angie C. Marek