Airport scanners to undergo ‘independent’ tests

January 4, 2008

Independent tests are to be conducted on the new breed of UK airport hand-baggage X-ray machines to examine the maker?s claims regarding film-fogging safety.

The machines are due to be rolled out at many UK airports including the seven run by BAA, which include Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.

Earlier this week BAA told us that the machines are ‘film safe’ but revealed that it has not carried out its own tests on them regarding any potential to damage unprocessed photographic film.

The new security system is designed to detect explosives and aims to allow passengers to carry more than one item of hand luggage on board their flight.

The scanner?s manufacturer, Smiths Detection, claims that the machine ? called the Hi-Scan 6040aTIX – is film safe ?up to ISO 1600 (33 DIN) with a maximum of 5 inspections’.

The firm has since told us that this means it is safe to pass the film through the machine ?five times?, even though baggage items are subject to ?multi-view X-ray beams?.

Smiths Detection spokesman Richard Bayliss confirmed that its claims will be put to the test by an independent German-based company called TUV Industrie Service.

The films due to be tested on the new machines include Fujifilm Provia (ISO 100 and 400 speeds); and Kodak Elite Chrome (ISO 400). An ISO 1600 film is also expected to be tested.

The new hand luggage machine is based on technology used in Smiths Detection-made hold baggage scanners which, the firm asserts, use X-ray beams of lower intensity than ?CT? scanners used widely in the US – and in some UK airports – for scanning checked-in luggage.

The Smiths Detection hold baggage machines underwent similar ?independent? tests, said Bayliss who added: ?The aTIX [hand baggage] machines use fewer X-ray beams than the hold baggage systems and therefore the effect on film is reduced. But to establish this, similar independent tests will be carried out using the new aTIX machines and a report will be published as soon as the tests are complete (within the first three months of this year).?

Though BAA airports are expected to adopt the new technology, it will be up to other airports whether they decide to use the new hand baggage scanners to boost security at checkpoints. Instead, they may choose to increase the numbers of security staff, according to the Department for Transport.

Photographers are routinely advised to store unprocessed film in their carry-on luggage which is subjected to less powerful X-rays than those produced by many hold luggage X-ray machines.

Though Smiths Detection claims that its existing hold luggage scanners present ?no significant influence on the film quality even at 20 X-ray inspections?, UK airports are known to use a combination of scanners for checked-in luggage, made by different manufacturers.

‘aTIX’ stands for Advanced Threat Identification X-ray.

13 issues for £13 - don't miss out!

Subscribe to Amateur Photographer magazine today and receive 13 issues for only £13 - saving 71%!