Body scans online at E-C Regional Airport

John Zick
The new full-body scanner at the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport uses generic images rather than computer-generated images of passengers’ bodies.

Fliers using the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport will now pass through a full-body scanner as part of the security screening process, but the new equipment does not generate the types of passenger-specific images that have caused controversy nationwide.

Officials introduced the new state-of-the-art equipment Wednesday, calling it the best way to protect fliers’ privacy while increasing safety.

“It’s the best that we have,” Transportation Security Administration Public Affairs manager Lisa Farbstein said.

After removing all personal items from their possession, passengers enter the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine one by one, at which time detection devices complete a 360-degree scan of the flyer’s body. The scanners use millimeter waves to detect metallic and non-metallic objects – both dangerous and innocuous.

If the machine detects any anomalies – whether it’s a gun or a credit card – a generic body image is displayed on the security screen with an indicator box pinpointing the location of the object. Passengers who produce an anomaly are then patted down by a TSA officer. If the scanner does not detect any anomalies, the scanner’s display screen flashes green, indicating the passenger is OK to proceed.

TSA Federal Security Director John McCaffrey said the scanner detects only external anomalies. Things such as metallic implants will not set off the scanner, but neither will threats or contraband located inside a passenger’s body.

“We’ll never get the risk to zero,” McCaffrey said.

The software used in the machine is new and does not produce passenger-specific images – or computer-generated mirror images – of the flier. So-called “naked” images were produced using older software, sparking the ire of countless fliers nationwide. Also, passengers who don’t feel comfortable passing through the machine can choose a full-body pat-down instead.

“The new technology is less invasive, thereby providing a privacy and comfort level for the individual, while also providing passengers a sense of security and peace of mind while traveling,” Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli said.

The scanner meets all known national and international standards for health and safety. In fact, the energy emitted by the machine is 1,000 times less than international limits and guidelines, officials said.

More than 500 AIT units are operating at more than 90 airports nationwide. The TSA fully funds the machines.

Airport manager Ann Crook said the new scanner is just the latest federal investment in the Big Flats airport.

“It’s encouraging to know that our federal agency partners recognize the importance of the economic impact that our airport contributes to the region,” Crook said.

The Elmira-Corning Regional Airport is responsible for $1.5 billion in annual economic impact. In New York, only John F. Kennedy International and Laguardia, both in New York City, are responsible for more annual economic impact.

Additionally, the Big Flats airport has grown at a record pace over the last few years and leads upstate New York in passenger growth.

As a result, the airport has added direct service to Orlando, Fla., and nonstop flights to JFK will begin in June. The airport also offers direct flights to Philadelphia and Detroit, and additional destinations could be added this year.

Transportation Security Administration Officer Michelle Freas conducts a full-body scan Wednesday at the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport.