HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's one more tool to prevent a terrorist attack. Full body scanners are now at the Honolulu airport. The Transportation Security Administration rolled out the new device, officially called Advanced Imaging Technology, on Friday as a way to stay one step ahead of security threats.
Since 9/11, getting off the ground hasn't been easy. "Make sure you take out all items - cellphones, keys, coins," says a TSA security officer directing passenger traffic at the checkpoint and towards the new body scanners.
With body imaging, employees can detect metal and non-metallic items - anything from cellphones to liquids, powders, and plastics to explosives. No passenger pat downs necessary. TSA spokesman Nico Melendez says, "They don't want to be touched, and we understand that. That's why we pursued technology like this - so we can get away from having to touch passengers needlessly."
The process works like this: passengers take their shoes off, enter into a tall, cylinder-shaped enclosure, and stand on yellow foot markings, shoulder-width apart. They put their hands over their head, bent at the elbows, for five to seven seconds - as the machine scans the body. In a private room nearby, a TSA screening officer views the black and white body images on a computer screen - looking for anything suspicious.
Body scans are bound to make some passengers uncomfortable, but the TSA says it's gone the extra mile to keep passengers' privacy a priority. Faces are blurred on the computer screen, and the images can't be saved, transmitted, or printed.
On the computer screen, you can see the body image with an outline of underwear, bras, and panties. Melendez says,"I don't think it's much more than what somebody sees when they're walking down Waikiki on a sunny day. It's a person wearing a bikini."
But passengers on the fly, be warned. It could take more time to get through security, as employees learn the new system. Travelers we spoke with say better safe than sorry.
As Reno, Nevada resident Tammy Hutchinson left her Hawaiian vacation, she commented, "A few extra minutes of our time in order to feel safe is absolutely worth it."
"It's everybody's obligation to make sure the flights are safe," says Pearl Harbor resident John Clausen. "If it's an opportunity to make sure the flights are safer than it shouldn't be a burden for everyone."
One of the imaging sites is already in place at the security checkpoint near United Airlines. By next week, a total of six will be up and scanning. Each costs a 170 thousand dollars. The body scan is optional, but if a passenger chooses not to do it and requires secondary screening, then that passenger will undergo a body pat down by TSA officers.
Metal detectors remain in place at Honolulu airport, as well.