One of the new body scanners at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington was demonstrated Wednesday for members of the media.
The first "advanced imaging technology" scanner was installed Monday. A second was to be installed Wednesday night. Both will be operational within the next few days.
"The biggest change for passengers is that now they will need to remove all items from their pockets when they come to the airport," said Jim Fotenos, public affairs manager for the Transportation Security Administration.
"In the past, we asked them to take metal items out, like your phone and your keys. Now we're going to be asking them to remove things like your wallet and your boarding pass. Those can go in the side pocket of a carry-on bag; they don't need to go in their own bin."
The scanners use "automatic targeting recognition" software, which means they can detect metallic and non-metallic items, Fotenos said.
"This technology looks for things like liquids, powders, gels, plastics: things that can be used as explosives themselves or as components for explosives," Fotenos said. "So it's a significant security upgrade and gives our officers another tool to keep the traveling public safe."
Because the new technology looks for concealed items, there is no "passenger specific" image used. "What the passenger sees at the checkpoint is exactly what our officer sees. It's a stick figure for everybody," Fotenos said.
The new scanners also use millimeter wave technology, which Fotenos described as "harmless electromagnetic or radio waves. The energy emitted is thousands of times less than that emitted by your cellphone."
Fotenos said the new scanners won't affect wait times "one way or another."
"The reason behind that is the longer portion of security screening is not screening the passenger but screening the carry-on bags," Fotenos said.
Some Blue Grass passengers were run through the scanner Wednesday morning for training, Fotenos said.
Each scanner costs between $120,000 and $180,000, Fotenos said. President Barack Obama's 2011 budget included the purchase of 500 units, and his 2012 budget seeks funding for an additional 275 units.
Advanced imaging technology and metal-detectors will both continue to be used at the security checkpoint, Fotenos said.
That means if there is an especially long line, both will be used to help move the line through the checkpoint.
As was the case in the past, people can opt out of going through a body scanner. The alternative is to undergo a pat-down by an officer.
Nationwide, 99 percent of passengers choose to go through imaging scanners rather than receive a pat-down, Fotenos said.
The Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati airports all have the new scanners.