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Does the Charleston Airport Have Scanners?


TSA MIllimeter Wave Picture - TSA Backscatter Body Imaging Picture - image from the TSA Showing Body

TSA Millimeter Wave Picture (Xray Body Imaging Image)

Question: Does the Charleston Airport Have Scanners?
Answer: Yes'm, the Charleston Airport has scanners. The scanners we're talking about here are those millimeter wave imaging devices or backscatter machines implemented as airport security by the TSA and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) post-9/11 and a few other air travel security concerns (more info). These advanced imaging devices, or AIT's, "take" an x-ray-like image (check it out at the upper right) of your body underneath your clothing; the image is then beamed electronically to a TSA employee, who is seated a distance away and, ostensibly, unable to see you while you are being scanned (the idea there is that he/she cannot mentally put together your face and the picture of your naked body), so the TSA employee can determine whether you have hidden weapons or bombs or other contraband concealed under your clothing and on your body. This kind of scanning is done at airport screening points; air passengers and their belongings must go through these screening checkpoints in order to get on a plane.

Know this: you can opt out of the backscatter scanner and ask for a pat down instead. We've done the patdown several times; it's not odious, and we'd rather have to cope with the grope than the endure the ogle.

Okay. Now. We've told you all this because Charleston is one of the airports in the country which is still offering a (now old-fashioned) metal detector instead of the newfangled naked picture thingymajig. Here's how a metal detector works: you divest yourself of your shoes, coin change, belt, hat, coat, jewelry and cell phone and walk through the metal detector, which beeps if you neglected to remove something containing enough metal to set the detector a-beeping. A TSA employee then wands you from head to toe with a handheld metal detector to see whether you simply forgot to take your off your belt (that buckle!) or you've got, perhaps, a metal prosthesis somewhere. (In which case, confusion from the TSA employee usually results. My father had a defibrillator implanted in his chest and the thing invariably set off the detector, and TSA employees seldom seemed to get that a piece of metal heart patients commonly have embedded in their chests can set off a metal detector... perhaps they thought he should have sent it through the x-ray machine with his shoes and change? But, we digress.)

The nice thing about the fact that Charleston still has a metal detector available to air passengers is that you can get in that line if you figure out which security line is for the metal detector, and avoid the AIT scanner. (If the metal detector is open -- otherwise, you can also opt out and ask for a patdown.) It's nice to have the choice of the option of half-undressing and walking though the metal detector, rather than choosing between half-undressing and then having pictures of my naked body beamed to some faceless TSA employee, or having a TSA employee give me a relatively painless pat down, with more intimate contact than I made at my first boy-girl dance. (The employee assigned to one's patdown is of one's own gender, by the way.)

Provided you have complied with all airport security rules and have packed your liquids and gels in three ounce containers and in the correct sort of plastic sandwich baggie (learn more about all that here) and are not attempting to smuggle any weapons or bomb-making materials aboard in the form of Swiss army knives on your keychain or a full sized tube of toothpaste, you can now collect your belongings and get re-dressed and go actually get on the plane. Don't forget your laptop, which you'll have had to take out of your backpack and send through the x-ray machine separately from your other belongings; fortunately, you're unlikely to forget your shoes (why does the TSA have that no-shoe rule?).

So. Why should you care about all this? Well, you need to know whether the Charleston Airport has scanners because if you're among those who don't want images of your naked body being beamed from the backscatter x ray machine, you'll know you should arrive at the Charleston airport early, either so that you'll be able to get in line for the good ol' metal detector, or so that you'll have plenty of time to wait should you end up having to choose a patdown over the AIT scanner: though the TSA says it isn't so, waiting for a patdown at airport security is always, for us, a long ordeal.

Learn more about which airports have scanners in the USA:

Comment: Will You Walk Through An Full Body Scanner?

Will you agree to walk through a full body scanner at the airport? Comment and/or read comments.

Comment: Have You Had a TSA Patdown?

Have you opted out of the full body scanner and had a TSA patdown? So, whadya think? Comment or read comments on TSA patdowns.

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