Regina Airport Authority unveils full body scanner

Regina Leader-Post

A once-controversial piece of security equipment now stands between air travellers and their flights at the Regina International Airport [ed:  thank goodness the controversy is over – NOT!].

On Tuesday, the Regina Airport Authority unveiled its full body scanner (FBS), which will work alongside the airport’s array of security devices. The FBS is being provided to airports by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), RAA president-CEO Jim Hunter told reporters.

“It’s one other thing out there that, if anybody is trying to get something nasty onto an airplane, they’re going to have to think about, so I think there is a deterrence factor.”

The walk-through unit has been installed and staff are being trained. Hunter said the machine is expected to be in use “not later than next Monday.”

CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque described the technology — in use in some Canadian airports since January — as “a leap forward in terms of detection technology.”

“It can detect not only metal, but a non-metallic object that may be hidden under clothes, so there’s the technological edge obviously, but there’s also the customer service aspect of things,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of passengers were not comfortable with the pat-down search, and this is clearly an alternative.”

Larocque said 44 units — each costing the federal government $250,000 — have been installed at major Canadian airports. Hunter said there was no cost to the RAA.

Larocque said security screening will be done as usual — initially. On a random basis, or if other scanning equipment picks up the presence of an object, the passenger will have a choice of being patted down or going through the FBS. The FBS scan itself takes about five seconds and reveals concealed objects through the use of low-level radio frequency energy.

Initially, there were privacy concerns because the scanner reveals more than just concealed objects. But Larocque said CATSA worked with the Canadian privacy commissioner, who has since OK’d the device.

“We have a few privacy safeguards that were put in place and the first and probably the most important one is that it’s voluntary,” Larocque said. “So if a passenger doesn’t feel comfortable with the technology, they can opt for a physical search.”

Other safeguards include putting the person reviewing the images in a separate room, so he or she can’t associate the image with an actual person. Images can’t be stored or printed.

“And when we hear ‘naked image,’ the term is a little bit rich. It’s not like a photo of a person,” Larocque added. “It’s really a black and white 3-D image that shows anomalies on the body … You’re not seeing colours or clear physical traits.”

Hunter said it’s “hard to say” if passengers should expect delays, but said “we’re pretty happy, or at least fairly optimistic, that it’s not going to slow down the screening process at all.”

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