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Sat, Feb 05, 2011

TSA Approves Contract For GA Backscatter Inspection Device

Portable Unit Could Inspect Any Airplane On Any Ramp

The Department of Homeland Security has awarded a contract that should make every GA pilot sit up and take notice. Following a study of the general aviation "screening problem," American Science and Engineering has been awarded a research and development contract under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program to design and build a prototype device to screen general aviation aircraft.

This is a Phase II follow-on award. The prototype will combine AS&E’s advanced Z Backscatter technology with a portable platform to provide complete aircraft coverage in an efficient one-man operation.

GA accounts for a majority of all flights in the United States, other than military and scheduled airline and cargo flights, and encompass a wide-range of on-demand flights (not routinely scheduled) such as emergency medical flights and corporate flights.

“Our ... system will provide DHS with a portable inspection solution that can be customized to screen general aviation aircraft for threats and contraband," said Anthony Fabiano, AS&E’s President and CEO. "This prototype builds on work already in progress at AS&E to miniaturize Z Backscatter screening systems and is transferable for use in nearly every X-ray scanning or inspection mission.”

Aero-Analysis: Is this a solution in search of a "problem?" We are all in favor of security around our airports, even when it comes to GA. But consider how much longer a John and Martha King might have sat in handcuffs at gunpoint, or maybe in jail, while one of these portable devices was located and brought to scan their airplane. What level of probable cause will be required before a flight is delayed or denied because the airplane can't be scanned? We see this as a "slippery slope" to further erosions of our ability to exercise our privileges as airmen (and women) . And while realizing they are just that, privileges, we hope that the government will exercise some prudence and restraint. Unfortunately, when it comes to "security", that may be a bit like wishing the tide wouldn't come in.

FMI: www.as-e.com

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