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emd Jan 5th, 2006 02:34 PM

GE security air puff machine
On our flight back from Phoenix to D.C. on Monday, my family was chosen randomly for what I call "4 digit security check", because the ticket agent marked our tickets with 4 S's and circled the 4 S's in red.

When we got to security we were put, one at a time, through a machine I had not seen before. It was a GE machine that had plexiglass doors on both sides. I stepped in and it sent jets of air up my legs and torso- strong jets, such that I was warned to hold onto my top or it would fly up. Then I stood in the machine for about a minute until the green light came on and the doors opened to exit. I asked the security personnel what it did, and he said it disturbs the particles on your skin and sucks the air up into the celing to be analyzed for explosives.

I've never seen a machine like this in use and haven't noticed them at Reagan DCA or Dulles IAD airports in D.C. where I fly out.

Are these common and I've just not noticed them, or is Phoenix unusual in having them?

I was glad we got to the airport way ahead of time (2 hrs) because the extra security and the carry on bag checks we were given were incredibly thorough and took an extra hour.

emd Jan 5th, 2006 02:49 PM

I see from this article that TSA purchased several of these machines. Boston, Miami, San Fran, Phoenix, Providence, Rochester, San Diego, Tampa, and Gulfport, and L.A.

ms_go Jan 5th, 2006 02:52 PM

Jacksonville has one. I saw it in Nov but didn't have to go through it. I think my mother in law said either she or a friend had to go through it in October when leaving on a trip out of the country.

ms_go Jan 5th, 2006 03:44 PM

BTW, which terminal in PHX? I don't remember seeing one in T2 when I went through there in December.

P_M Jan 5th, 2006 04:17 PM

This reminds me of Marilyn Monroe in that scene where the air from the grate is making her skirt fly up. I'll never wear a skirt to any of those airports!! :-))

AAFrequentFlyer Jan 5th, 2006 05:26 PM


CubFanAlways Jan 5th, 2006 07:31 PM

You were RANDONLY selected? Oh, terrific. Terrorists are hardly a random group; they are Middle Eastern men. The risk of a man from Belgium (or a family from Phoenix) is not the same as that as one from Baghdad. Discrimination? The definition of discrimination is The ability to distinguish a difference. And if we dont distinguish differences, we do so at our own peril. If it were 19 guys named Sven that hijacked airplanes on September 11, then Id have a problem with Oslo.

emd Jan 5th, 2006 10:10 PM

I made had the reservations in May 2005 (with seat assignments) and never changed them. Our America West flight originated in D.C., not Phoenix. Our last name is Irish. We are two adults in our 40s-50 and two teenagers, sitting together. Yes, the skycap said it was a random security check, and I can't imagine that we had anything in our profiles to make it anything more than random.

I do think the skycap should have stayed mum, and just told us that we needed to go inside to the counter. Instead, with no prompting from us (we were ready to head inside once he told us we needed to do so, we never asked questions) he started this dialogue, as if he felt he had to give us an eexplanation, asking me if I had changed the reservation recently, etc., and then saying we had apparently been randomly selected for special security. If I had been a terrorist I would have bolted right there and not gone inside the terminal. Also, although the agent at the counter inside never said anything about the extra security, the 4 S's circled in red on each boarding pass were pretty obvious. They should be more discreet about the security checks, unless what they are trying to do is scare off the terrorists instead of catch them.

I have to say that the TSA personnel were extremely courteous and thorough. We each had two carryons, loaded with electronics (cameras, one of which had numerous parts- one of those ones that has the printer docking station, electronic hand-held games, DVD player, laptop, etc.) They took out everything from every bag and swiped all the electronics, took out everything from our wallets, and put it all back they way they found it, allowing us to see every second of their investigation (unlike two other experiences when I was asked to turn my back on my purse and carry-on while I was being hand searched). I much preferred the GE puff machine to having my body hand/wand searched by the personnel, which I have had done before.

Ackislander Jan 6th, 2006 07:24 AM

Gee, CubFanAlways must spend more time reading the sports pages than the news pages if he thinks terrorists are always Middle Eastern men. Has he heard of shoe bomber Richard Reid? Is the name Jose Padilla unknown to him?

Apart from his racism, the sad thing is that today people of a variety of races and espousing a variety of causes can commit terrorism. And in today's world, grandma's tote bag and baby's teddy bear could both be carrying bombs, whether grandma or baby put them there or not.

LuvToTravel77 Jan 6th, 2006 08:50 AM

It may be sad for some to acknowledge but Cubfan is right. While most Muslims are not terrorist, most terrorists are Muslims. Sad to say, but it is the truth. As for invoking the names of Richard Reid and Jose Padilla, I don't think Cubfan ever said that all terrorists are middle eastern men, only most of them, which save PC fakeness is absolutely true. Need I remind you that Richard Reid converted to Islam?

clevelandbrown Jan 6th, 2006 01:34 PM

I suppose all the Irish terrorists are Moslem, too.

Regardless, any screening that is absolutely predictable is easily defeated. Some type of random selection is necessary to insure those with evil designs cannot be certain that they can succeed by using little old ladies in wheelchairs, or infants,or Cub fans.

FainaAgain Jan 6th, 2006 01:55 PM

I watched something, either in the news or on the travel/pocker channel about Las Vegas, and they were installing those in the airport there.

P_M, you must be a very young woman. At my age, I made a list of all airports mentioned in this thread, and will make sure to wear a lightweight wide skirt going there :))

EMD, on a serious note, thank you for pioneering! And posting.

dutyfree Jan 8th, 2006 12:40 AM

I have had this machine &quot;do me&quot; at Tampa, Providence and San Diego both as a working airline crew member and as a passenger on another airline. I really do think that they are random checks?

Lena456 Jan 8th, 2006 06:35 PM

I was never subjected to the 4 'S's on a ticket until my Dad passed away and I had to buy an emergency 1 way ticket from Sarasota, Florida. Ever since (2-1/2 years) 2 out of 3 times when I fly out of Sarasota on Delta (and not other airlines), I get the dreaded 4 's's - and I fly from there pretty frequently. I am very German looking, white hair, 62 years old - one time the woman in back of me on the line for the extra security check looked to be 90 and was in a wheelchair. Since the 'S's are showing up so frequently for me they don't seem too random.

clevelandbrown Jan 9th, 2006 08:38 AM

My understanding is that the dreaded SSSS screening is both random and non-random.

TSA has a list of names, with different categories. Some on the list are barred from flying; some on the list are allowed to fly, but required to undergo the special scrutiny. The problem is that some of us have names that are similar to or identical to those of people who are on the list, so if you have a like name, you will be treated as your namesake would be treated, unless you have gone to the trouble of applying for a special letter from the TSA clearing you. I have a very common name and, while I am not a terrorist or crook, I was routinely SSSS'd for a few months until I got my letter. Worse, the airlines apparently have different procedures, so some people are SSSS'd regularly on some airlines, but never on others.

I think the puffer machine is not a part of the SSSS process everywhere. I suspect it is a new device and they are field testing it before deciding whether that want to install them everywhere.

Travel talk has a travel safety/security forum where frequent flyers discuss this type of thing at length. There's a lot of interesting information there, but alas, also a lot of woofing.

dona Jan 9th, 2006 08:23 PM

Just heard on the news that IAD and DCA will begin using this equipment on &quot;some passengers.&quot; They said it's already in use at BWI as well as about 22 or so other airports. It's supposed to detect traces of explosives.

emd Jan 9th, 2006 08:53 PM

If you get picked for the SSSS screening, my experience at Sky Harbor was that you better have at least an extra 30 min. for it if you have two carry-on items (personal piece and one carry-on bag) and are going to make your flight.

gail Jan 9th, 2006 10:41 PM

My husband, who has the honor of having special-screening TSA status - meaning he gets extra screening at times (as mentioned by clevelandbrown) will be just thrilled to hear new adventures await him with one of these machines. (And he now has a letter from TSA but it is not time saving since he still can not use kiosk check-in)

The other possibility is that these machines are actually part of the experiments by aliens on people's brains. Does anyone know for sure they are being staffed by TSA humans and not Martians.

LoveItaly Jan 10th, 2006 03:51 PM

Hi emd, just read this morning on CNN/Travel had these puff machines are going to be installed at a lot more airports this spring including the small Sacramento airport near me. So looks like they are here to stay. Another thing to get use to.

simpsonc510 Jan 10th, 2006 06:38 PM

Hubby and I just went through the puff machine screening in SJU (San Juan PR). We still had to do the regular beeping machines that we have all grown accustomed too, as well.

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