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Body scanners at Manchester Airport: X-ray or X-rated?
Man being scanned at Manchester Airport
X-ray or X-rated? Some passengers say the scanner is too revealing

Full body scanners are to be installed at all three departure terminals at Manchester Airport following a trial.

It means that any passenger could be required to undergo a scan which will replace the traditional 'pat down.'

The airport says that people may be selected at random and, if they refuse, will not be allowed to travel.

The scanners, which produce a 'naked' image, have raised concerns about privacy, but the airport said they have slashed queue times at security.

How does it work and what can you see?

Imaging technology works by bouncing X-rays off an individual's skin to produce an image of the person's body.

Man being scanned at Manchester Airport
The scan produces an outline image of the body

The X-rays in effect strip you 'naked': they produce a black and white, ghost-like outline of an individual's body minus hair or facial features.

However, they do reveal anything concealed on the person: coins in a pocket, trouser studs, metal or ceramic knives, guns, explosives, drugs.

The shin bones, which lie close to the skin's surface, can also be seen, as can features such as the cleft between buttocks.

The manufacturers Rapiscan say the technology makes it impossible to see faces but simple to detect hidden threats.

Who will be scanned?

Following a year-long trial, body scanners will be installed at all three Manchester Airport terminals by the end of October 2010.

It means that all passengers who are selected for a scan must participate if they want to fly.

In February 2010, two female Muslim passengers were refused travel after they declined the scanners on religious grounds.

People who will be scanned include:

  • any passenger who requests a private search before or after passing through the walk-through metal detection equipment;
  • any passenger who triggers an alert on the standard metal detector;
  • any passenger who reqires further investigation following a "pat down" search;
  • any passenger who causes explosive or other detection equipment to sound;
  • any passenger selected at random.

Who sees the image?

Security officer viewing scanned image
Security staff will be banned from carrying cameras or mobile phones

The image is viewed by a security officer in a closed room who can't see the person being scanned. He or she then electronically confirms if the passenger can proceed or whether a search is required.

Manchester Airport insists that all images are destroyed once the passenger has passed through the scanner.

It also said that security staff who operate the scanner are banned from carrying mobile phones or cameras and will be searched before beginning their shift.

How long does it take?

By replacing the usual 'pat down' searches, the airport claims the technology has cut the average security check from two minutes to 25 seconds.

And, unlike normal security checks, passengers are able to keep their jackets, shoes and belts on.

However, experts say that a full body scan of someone, front and rear, actually takes longer.



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