Travelers have more than enough to worry about: catching flights, on-time arrival, and lost luggage. But underlying it all, is the ever present concern for safety. The terrorist threat is a real one. Despite the use of X-ray scanners to screen carry-on luggage, aviation security still has many weaknesses.
Unfortunately, many of the installed baggage scanning systems are based on enhanced X-ray technology. While these systems are able to detect high-contrast items, like guns, they can't reliably detect bombs. The good news is that technology is catching up with the threat. Today, systems that combine X-ray and computed tomography (CT) techniques are defusing the hidden bomb threat.
The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, woke the world up to the critical importance of explosives detection. This airplane was downed by a small amount of plastic explosive hidden within a tape recorder tucked inside an unaccompanied suitcase. No screening procedures for checked luggage were in place at that time. Even if security measures had been taken, the most advanced X-ray screening systems in use then could not have detected the bomb due to the limitations inherent in the technology.
Bombs are hard to detect because of the materials used to build them. They are typically built with low-contrast materials that resemble many items commonly found in luggage. The difficulty in identifying explosives is compounded when they are concealed inside other items within a suitcase.
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