scatter no more

RTGnThe harshest critics labeled them “virtual strip searches.” Airport passenger screening that produced particularly realistic full-body images using backscatter technology. Others also expressed health concerns about low doses of radiation from the X-rays underpinning those scans. Others – like me – opted out completely and took our chances waiting for a pat down. Well, it’s all over now as the Transportation Security Administration says it has met a June 1 deadline to remove all 250 backscatter machines from U.S. airports. Travelers will still go through other full-body scans that rely on a system that uses radio waves and produces less detailed body imaging. The millimeter wave machines raise fewer privacy and almost no health concerns. The TSA maintained that the backscatter machines, manufactured by Rapiscan Systems, were safe and effective, but Congress voted to require all body scanners to have privacy-protecting software, and the TSA announced in February it was phasing out backscatter systems because they could not meet the new standard. Most countries do not use body scanners, by the by, preferring to use a combination of metal detection and technology that can actually identify explosives.


live blog: statistically speaking

For anyone caught up in the current transportation paranoia, here are a few sobering statistics to cheer you up.

Data comes from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and is inclusive over the ten-year period  from October 1999 through September 2009.

total number of commercial flights:


total number of terrorist attacks:  6

total number of successful terrorist attacks:  4

total number of miles:  69,415,786,000


one attack per 11.5 billion miles flown; the equivalent of 1,459,664 trips around the equator or 24, 218 trips to the Moon and back, or two round trips from Earth to the planet Neptune.

total airborne time (425 mph average):

18 millenia, 6 centuries, 32 years, 276 days, 13 hours, 28 minutes, 24 seconds


one attack per 27.2 million hours airborne.

(that’s 3,105 years)

{3,100 years ago the New Kingdom in Egypt comes to an end}

total number of passengers:


that’s 23 times the population of the United States of America.

number of passengers killed :  647

647 is also the total population of Muscoda, WI.

odds of being a terrorism victim in flight:  one in 10,408,947

odds of being killed by lightning:  1 in 500,000


live blog: reactionary rules

In case you haven’t been able to find any detailed information on the TSA’s website regarding the new security rules enacted after the passenger-driven scuttling of the nefarious Christmas Day Underwear Plot  (and you won’t be able to find any information on their website because the TSA still hasn’t bothered to actaully share the new rules with the plane flying public) here is the full text of Security Directive 1544-09-06 authorizing pat-downs and physical inspection of everyone except heads of state and one lucky individual chosen by said head of state.  Maybe that someone will be you!

Now don’t you feel safer?


1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.

1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso.
2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.

2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

1. Spouse and children, or
2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)

3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:

1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).

2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).


1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.


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