Explosives detectors to be installed at more UK airports

21 November 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
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mage from an active millimetre wave body scanner designed to detect non-metallic explosives

Image from an active millimetre wave body scanner designed to detect non-metallic explosives [Credit: US Department of Homeland Security]

Further airports across the UK will be equipped with scanners capable of detecting homemade explosive devices as the UK government believes there is a ‘substantial’ risk of an attack.

Eleven airports including Stansted, Luton, Cardiff, Belfast City, Aberdeen, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds, will receive the scanners that use millimetre wave technology, which, unlike X-ray, has no known health risks.

“All security scanners deployed now use automatic threat recognition software, which means that no image of a passenger is produced, thus alleviating any residual health or privacy concerns,” said UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

"The overwhelming evidence from airports is that nearly all passengers accept the use of security scanners and find the process quick and convenient.”

He said an alternative private search procedure will be introduced for those passengers, who, for any reason, feel uncomfortable to undergo milimetre wave screening. Until now, passengers rejecting the screening where not allowed to board the flight.

The scanners were introduced at airports including London’s Heathrow in response to the threat to aviation posed by non-metallic improvised explosive devices, such as that used in the attack on the Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

In that incident, a 23-year-old Nigerian attempted to ignite an explosive device strapped to his leg by injecting acid into it. Though the explosion failed, the attacker suffered severe burns before being overpowered by a fellow passenger and taken control off by the crew.

A similar attempt was thwarted in 2012 in Yemen, also regarding a plane heading to the USA. On this occasion the attacker was discovered before boarding the flight.

According to McLoughlin, homemade explosive used in these incident were designed to allow the attacker to conceal the device from scanners commonly used at that time.

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