Little Rock National Airport gets Body Scanner

(KATV) Little Rock - The latest in airport security technology has made its way to the Little Rock National Airport.

Just in time, as hundreds of last minute holiday travelers make their way to their terminal, there is a new security check point. Friday afternoon passengers began walking through the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine. Not only is it expected to get you to your flight faster, it's supposed to make the airport safer.

It's a far cry from the controversial systems that displays each person's body. This one has enhanced privacy.

A TSA agent gives you step by step directions. You walk in, place your feet on the yellow footprint, hold your hand up for three seconds and you're asked to walk out.

The screen is visible to you when you walk out; it displays the same generic body shape for everyone. It will read 'ok' if you're clear to go or highlight a specific area to pat down.

You still have to take off your shoes and empty your pockets.

Jerry Henderson is the Arkansas Federal Security Director. He says it will be very effective for people who have prosthetics or for example a hip replacement, eliminating the need for a pat down. "The AIT will significantly improve the security of our passengers and increase the efficiency of our screening operations and greatly reduce the need for us to do pat downs."

If you refuse, you will go through the metal detector and undergo a thorough pat down. "All of our passengers have the option of being patted down in private which then requires they go to a private screening room, they have two people in there. One to observe and one to do the pat down so it really save on the process."

The system detects both metallic and non-metallic objects including explosives.

He says the system uses harmless magnetic waves similar to those in your cell phone.

Anyone who can raise their hands for 3-seconds will be expected to go through the machine. Sharon Cantrell says as long as she's watching, she doesn't mind her 5-year old granddaughter going through the unit.

Cantrell explains, "I work for a prison and we go through a scanner and a body pat search every day just to keep from bringing in contraband so I wouldn't have a problem, it keep everybody safe."

The second AIT unit will be ready in January. Right now one is up and running so not everyone will be asked to go through it. Metal detectors will still be used for the rest of passengers.

The Little Rock National Airport just expanded the screening area and expanded from four to five metal detectors, all new equipment.

Little Rock is one of 16 airports that received and Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) unit in the past few weeks.

The TSA has 540 imaging technology units at more than 100 airports nationwide.