So Much For The ShoeScanner

I was really rooting for this machine. As I mentioned in a previous blog I travel with a young child and had really hoped the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would be able to work out the kinks with the ShoeScanner they were testing at a Florida airport.

I happen to be one of the airline passengers who had hoped to someday go through airport security without having to take my shoes off. The ShoeScanner was supposed to make that happen. For those of you who are not familiar with the security device it was supposed to work like this: Passengers stand on the ShoeScanner platform for 45 seconds. Sensors then scan their shoes for metal and explosive particles. And, if the shoes pass, travelers get a receipt allowing them to keep their shoes on through security. Perfect; right? Well, it would have been if it had worked.

Unfortunately, the nation’s airport security chief says the ShoeScanner machine needs improvement.

“It’s not good enough for prime time,” the TSA chief said of the ShoeScanner.

According to the head of the TSA, tests have revealed “security deficiencies” that prevent the machine from consistently finding weapons and bomb parts.

So what does that mean for airline travelers? That’s right; so much for avoiding long waits in security lines. Creators of the ShoeScanner had touted the product as technology that would eliminate the major checkpoint hassle of removing shoes and a way to ease congestion at airport security lines. At the beginning of the year four of the machines were installed at the Orlando International Airport and were used on passengers who passed a background check and paid $100 a year for a Verified Identity Pass. However, the ShoeScanner failed to work properly–about half of the travelers using the machine were forced to remove their footwear because the ShoeScanner detected metal in their shoes.

After the Orlando debacle ShoeScanners that were installed in seven other airports across the country were left off. The machines, which still sit in San Francisco and Cincinnati airports and terminals at Newark, New Jersey, and New York’s Kennedy, remain unused. In the meantime, an upgraded ShoeScanner was brought to a Homeland Security Department lab in New Jersey last week for testing. Designers say they are optimistic that recent improvements will TSA requirements. Let’s hope.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.