Airport Puffer Devices Expensive And Don't Work Very Well, Being Phased Out

from the so-much-for-that-plan dept

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've had the "pleasure" of going through airport security in one of those newer "puffer" devices that shoot little puffs of air up and down your body. I was told that these were sophisticated new machines that are much better at finding traces of explosives on people. Except... it turns out... not so much. Apparently the machines are incredibly expensive, prone to breaking down when exposed to dirt and humidity (none of that around airports) and difficult to repair. So, the government is no longer going to roll out any more such machines. This reminds me that, just last year, we were wondering whatever happened to the predicted boom in new airport security technology, that everyone insisted was on the way following the attacks of September 11th. These machines were about the only visual example of any new technology... and they don't seem to work.


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  1.  
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    NSMike, May 26th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Not really new...

    These kinds of devices are not really new. They are standard at nuke plants, although of a different variety. Because the security stations at nuke plants are not as busy as airports, they can afford to use ones that take longer, and don't use "puffs" of air. It's a constant stream of air, and you must stand there for a while, roughly six or seven seconds. I don't know how prone to breaking they were, but they were never out of order when I was there.

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 26th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Only?

    What about the 'naked scan' tech that's being rolled out? They've been installed at several airports (although not in quantity) and while problematic in privacy terms, they do seem to do what they were designed to do.

     

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  3.  
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    Beta, May 26th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    "Since 2005, maintaining the machines has cost the government more than $6 million."

    There you are, the machines were a $6M success for somebody.

    The day the towers fell I said to my friends "mark my words, we're going to get new security measures that infringe our civil rights, do no real good and make somebody a lot of money."

     

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  4.  
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    Tgeigs, May 26th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    As the great George Carlin once said:

    Airport security isn't about security, it's about the ILLUSION of security, and cool little machines that gently blow puffs of air all over your body to make all the bad little germs go away just make your average 300 pound citizen feel oh so cuddly inside.

     

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  5.  
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    EH, May 26th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Airport Puffer Replaced by...

    An airport fluffer?

     

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  6.  
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    Paco, May 26th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Someone Miss a Campaign Contribution?

    No kidding - they're killing a Federal project that doesn't work? John Murtha's kid must have a more expensive solution on the horizon...

     

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  7.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), May 26th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Not really new...

    I don't know how prone to breaking they were, but they were never out of order when I was there.

    That's because the puffers at the nuke plants were privately owned. Get the government involved and it is bound to fail quickly.

     

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  8.  
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    some old guy, May 26th, 2009 @ 11:35am

    backscatter?

    What about backscatter xray?

    That's still in the news all over the place.

    Great fun for voyeurs of all ages.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2009 @ 12:52pm

    It'sprobably all psychological.

    They often leave these machines open and I noticed that they have a canister of compressed air in it. There are standards for gas canister coloring, and the canisters are either blue and yellow so it was non-toxic, medical grade something being shot on you. Possibly medical CO2, a air mix, possibly even nitrous oxide.

    When I walked thru these machines, I haven't seen anything that would resemble a collector or sensor plate of sorts for the fumes, plus the way the nozzles shot around a person didn't have a defined airstream. It seems the intent was more control of the airstream around the person. You'll also note these units are usually located at either extreme of the airport lanes, where airflow within and around the machines is probably more controlled.

    Pretty sure the whole existence of the machine was psychological.

     

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  10.  
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    Al Jazira, May 26th, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    Something that works well in one situation may not work so well when adapted to a different one. Such is the case with these machines. The only actual way to tell whether they'll work under airport conditions is to stick them in airports and try them. It isn't that they don't work (they do), they simply don't work well enough under those conditions to justify the cost and extensive maintenance needed to keep them working. So someone in the government actually had a good idea and canceled the program, and folks are complaining?

    90% of airport screening is purely psychological. If we REALLY wanted to be secure, the public AND the airlines would never stand for it. Look at all the whining about the extremely effective full body scanners currently being tested. The person who sees the images never sees the people, so unless you've got a 3rd leg or something, nobody's going to know who you are, or care. Oh, but folks would rather not have their delicate sensibilities offended even if that means going down in a fiery ball of twisted metal.

    I don't know of a single airport in the country where maintenance workers, with full access to the entire terminal and the airplanes have to pass ANY sort of security. What are the odds of paying some minimum wage schlub who in most parts of the country isn't even a US citizen to stick a package on a plane? Maybe hold his family hostage back in their home country for added incentive? And, of course, the guy (or girl) could just waltz in or out without anybody saying anything.

    I know whereof I speak, I personally trained many of the TSA supervisors employed around the country (at least those hired in the TSA's 1st year of existence).

    Even El Al's security is based mainly on appearances. The only airline operating on US soil that the TSA isn't allowed to handle security for, we're (or at least were) required to observe them, and their procedures are a joke. After screening the passengers luggage (at JFK), they hand the luggage back to the passengers to take up to the counter (on a long, densely packed line). The passengers at this point haven't gone through ANY security screening, and someone with a bomb in their pocket could easily slip it inside their luggage after their luggage has been scanned.

    Oh, and if you're one of the goyim, expect to be selected for extra and in-depth screening, because you WILL get it. We can't get away with that sort of profiling, but they can. Of course, even then they don't follow correct procedure taking far too many samples before testing for explosives. Anything collected with their first swipe would likely be well worn off of their swab before it was ever tested.

     

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  11.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 26th, 2009 @ 6:30pm

    Re:

    "90% of airport screening is purely psychological. If we REALLY wanted to be secure, the public AND the airlines would never stand for it. "

    B.S. The threat of 9/11 ended in a field in Pennsylvania. The promise of hijackers was always that the travelers would be unharmed, once that was belied (and while everyone else was just reacting, I will add) the previously passive sheep laid into the wolves.They died, of course, but they prevented any other casualities.

    As I've said since 9/12: Issue Bowie Knives to everyone as they come onboard. After 9/11 you won't get a chance to finish your polemic.

     

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  12.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 26th, 2009 @ 10:07pm

    Real Security

    As Bruce Schneier has said, there have been just two really worthwhile security improvements since 11/9. All the fancy high-tech stuff is just window-dressing.

     

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  13.  
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    Beta, May 27th, 2009 @ 8:23am

    Al Jazira: "Look at all the whining about the extremely effective full body scanners currently being tested... folks would rather not have their delicate sensibilities offended even if that means going down in a fiery ball of twisted metal."

    I have flown on commercial airliners many, many times without being scanned, and I have never, not even once, gone down in a fiery ball of twisted metal. Your risk estimation is way, way off.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous of Course, May 27th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Re: It'sprobably all psychological.

    No, it's not. My former boss grabbed a box out of the
    lab for packing up some show-and-tell stuff he was taking
    on a flight. I got a call later that day from him, "You
    got me in so much trouble...!" The box had once contained
    jars of potassium nitrate used for a humidity controlled
    cabinet. It set off the alarms and caused a minor panic.

     

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  15.  
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    Michael Goldberg, May 29th, 2009 @ 9:15am

    Airport Security

    There are many more security devices out there; they are just being bought & installed at international airports. IDO Security has developed such a device called the MagShoe. The MagShoe is a metal detector device developed to make travel safer & more enjoyable; no need to remove shoes! For more info visit www.idosecurityinc.com

    All feedback is welcomed!

    Michael

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Smothers, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 4:16pm

    New Security Devices

    http://www.vlyf.com/counterterrorism

    Thats the new generation of airport devices that are commercially available in countries other than the U.S.A.. Its produced by a small technology transfer company from Kentucky and beats backscatter technology due to the fact that the radiation penetrates through the body, allowing one to see inside body cavities etc.

     

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