FAA software comes into play

FAA software comes into play

The Federal Aviation Administration will in the coming weeks implement a rule that for the first time gives the agency direct oversight of security companies that conduct screenings at airports.

The Screening Company Certification final rule, proposed in January, is intended to improve the performance of screeners at airport security checkpoints by mandating higher standards for training and testing. It also will require the use of training and monitoring software called the Threat Image Projection system, said Tammy Jones, an FAA spokeswoman.

Until now, airlines have hired security companies to screen both passengers and carry-on items.

Under the new rule, FAA will directly regulate the screening companies and rescind agency certification if the screeners do not perform to FAA standards, Jones said.

Hit the books

FAA will require screeners to undergo 40 hours of classroom training followed by FAA tests for each screener and 40 hours of on-the-job training and another test, she said.

To monitor the performance of the screeners, FAA is replacing more than 1,400 X-ray machines nationwide with new ones, at a cost of $80 million, that come installed with the threat imaging system.

The system projects digital images of guns, knives and bombs onto X-ray displays to test the screener's ability to detect potential weapons.

When a screener detects a threat and hits the button to stop a bag, the system will flash a congratulatory message and record the screener's performance, Jones said.

If a screener misses a fictional threat image, the system stops the conveyer belt and informs the user, 'You have not identified a fictional threat.'

The agency plans to deploy the systems at 454 airports nationwide by the end of next year.

Currently, 600 systems have been deployed, Jones said, adding that their use will be mandated after the new rule is implemented.

The agency declined to say whether the system is already being used at Boston's Logan International Airport, Newark International Airport in New Jersey, or Washington Dulles Airport, from which terrorists launched their Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

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