American Airlines Partners with TSA to Deploy 3D CT Screening Device at JFK; Optimistic for Faster Passenger Processing

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and American Airlines announced the installation of a Computed Tomography (CT) screening device at New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 8 Passenger Screening Checkpoint. The machine installed is produced by the company analogic and uses CT scanning technology to create detailed 3D images of scanned carry-on bags. The installation of the scanning equipment at JFK is part of a TSA passenger screening checkpoint modernization initiative which plans to deploy 40 CT scanning devices for testing by the end of the year.

American Airlines has assisted the TSA in this modernization initiative through its donation of 8 CT devices. In addition to the one being deployed at JFK, two of the donated devices are currently deployed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). 

CT Technology versus Current X-Ray Technology at Passenger Screening Checkpoints

Current X-Ray scanning technology at passenger screening checkpoints creates two-dimensional images of the top and sides of scanned carry-on bags. However, CT scanning equipment creates a 3D image of scanned carry-on devices by rotating a narrow band of x-ray around the scanned bags which creates many small x-ray images at many different angles that are then digitally compiled into one three-dimensional representation. The result is an incredibly detailed image which gives TSA operators an enhanced ability to identify densities of objects within scanned bags and their exact location within 3D space. The technology also enables the TSA to rotate the image for more thorough analysis, reducing the need for manual inspection. As a result, the TSA is optimistic that passengers going through passenger screening checkpoints will no longer need to remove as many items from their carry-on bags, including liquids.

Current baggage scanning systems are often unable to clearly differentiate items that are placed directly on top or immediately next to each other. CT technology aims to solve this issue by providing operators volumetric information, that is information pertaining to an object’s location in space, density, and material composition. American Airlines believes the technology will reduce the number of passengers that need to be rebooked from passenger screening checkpoint delays.

CT technology is not new to aviation security and has been in use for checked bags since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the time, the technology was not compact or capable enough to meet TSA screening needs at passenger screening checkpoints. The technology has also been in use for decades in the Health Care Industry, where it has been used by doctors and physicians to make diagnoses without having to perform a biopsy or invasive surgery.

TSA installation of CT Technology

​The TSA plans to have 40 CT Machines installed at U.S. airports by the end of 2018 with 145 expected to be deployed by the end of FY2019. As part of TSA’s initial testing and deployment and in addition to the three airports where the technology is currently deployed, an additional 12 units are planned to be installed in the following airports

  • Baltimore-Washington
  • Chicago O’Hare
  • Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Las Vegas McCarran
  • Oakland
  • Philadelphia
  • San Diego
  • St. Louis Lambert
  • Washington-Dulles

The TSA continues to test the machines in completely different environments as part of a stress test to ensure they meet minimum performance requirements. Once the machines prove capable, the TSA is considering updating their screening policies to allow customers to leave more items in their bag. Currently, passengers using the CT lanes will be able to leave their laptops in their bags. 

Congressional Support

Congress has appropriated $64 million for fiscal year 2018 in support of TSA’s checkpoint security modernization efforts. The appropriation also included funding to procure and test CT equipment. For FY 2019, the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in their draft reportrecommended $94.4M for checkpoint support, which includes $20M above the TSA’s budget request for CT equipment.

According to the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, the increased funding should enable the TSA to deploy approximately 240 CT systems in 2019. The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in their report instead recommends $71.5M for checkpoint support, which includes funding for the purchase and installation of 145 CT machines at passenger checkpoints at high-risk airports across the United States.