Laptop Ban Might be Lifted for Istanbul

We just heard about the laptop ban being lifted for Etihad flights out of Abu Dhabi to the US but now it looks like the ban will be lifted for another airport: Istanbul Atatürk Airport in Turkey. According to Turkish Transport, Maritime and Communication Minister Ahmet Arslan, the tablet ban is set to be lifted on Wednesday and the laptop ban may be lifted soon after a planned inspection this week at the airport by the TSA.

Turkey likes their odds of passing this inspection due to two new “tomography machines.” Tomography machines are essentially CT scans that allow officials to see high-definition, three-dimensional views of the contents of any bag, electronic device, or bottle of fluid. These are far superior than X-ray machines as it’s possible to see far more detail and thus easily detect more objects.

Since these machines can detect details in electronics and liquids, passengers may not have to take those items out of their bags. (Note: with TSA Pre-Check you don’t have to do this either). They also have a lower false alarm rate so fewer passengers will need pat-downs. This means that lines could move quicker which will make passengers happy but more importantly could mean shortened lines for terrorists to target. It’s an all-around win.

The US has been discussing implementing these machines across the US but they are very expensive, each one costing several hundred thousand dollars. They also are much more heavy and require far more power to operate. This means Congress would have to approve spending $1 billion or more on these measures for them to become commonplace in our airports.

TSA has been testing these out at different airports around the country. It’s one thing to have a machine that can produce an HD, 3D image, but it’s another thing to have thousands of employees who know how to operate the scans and read the images effeciently, so I imagine personnel training is a another hurdle to implementing these machines.

It’s clear that these machines are needed, however. Tests have once again revealed that TSA has failed to detect 95% of prohibited items, including fake weapons and explosives. And explosives are apparently one of the hardest things to detect in an X-ray machine but are much easier to spot with the CT scans because they can detect variances in density.

I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to see these machines pop up in more airports around the globe.

Cover photo by Pedro Szekely via Flickr.