Security Scanner

In November 2014 Newcastle Airport began operating a security scanner in accordance with Department for Transport (DfT) guidelines.

Below you will find a host of frequently asked questions about the scanner, the reason for its implementation and the selection process.

How does the security scanner work?

The security scanner uses active millimetre wave technology. It will scan the passenger’s body and analyse the data using Automated Threat Recognition (ATR) software. This software identifies any areas where prohibited items may be concealed, which are flagged on a standardised stick-figure on a screen. The security officer can then conduct a further targeted hand-search on these identified areas.

Will all passengers be scanned? If not how will passengers be selected for scanning?

Passengers are randomly selected for security scanning in the same way that they are currently selected for other aviation security measures, such as the removal of footwear and conventional hand searches. The DfT requires that passenger selection for security scanning is made on objective grounds e.g. in response to alarms generated by other security equipment, on a random numerical basis (for the purposes of deterrent), or to resolve concerns about clearly defined observed behaviours. Passengers must not be selected on the basis of personal characteristics (i.e. disability, gender, gender reassignment, age, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation). Profiling or the selection of individuals for search based on an individual's perceived race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, is not used by Newcastle Airport security staff to select people for scanning.

The Code of Practice is clear that selection should be undertaken to ensure that no discrimination takes place. The Code of Practice is a directed requirement under the Aviation Security Act 1982.

What is it like to be scanned?

You will be asked to step into the scanner and adopt the required stance. Newcastle Airport staff will then explain what will happen and guide you through the process. Unlike a hand search, no physical contact is required and you will not feel anything. The whole process takes only a few seconds. If the scanner detects any potentially dangerous items on your person, then airport security staff will need to search you further to determine what these are and you may be asked to go through the scanner again.

What does this mean for the passenger?

Why is the security scanner necessary?

The scanner works alongside the other methods of screening to will help Newcastle Airport security staff to detect a variety of items that could potentially be used to cause harm to an aircraft and its passengers.

Will you be able to recognise me from my image?

No image is created or stored by the security scanner.

Why are children not exempt? Are children seen as potential terrorists?

Children are required to be screened by a security scanner if selected. To do otherwise would risk undermining the effect of these measures and potentially leave children vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists.

Is it legal to screen children?

Will I be compensated for missing my flight if I refuse to be scanned and refuse the alternative screening method, or I miss my flight because of the additional time taken by the alternative screening method?

No. Airlines include the right to refuse to carry passengers if they refuse a security check to be carried out on them or their baggage as part of the terms and conditions of sale of tickets for travel. Passengers should ensure that they arrive at Newcastle Airport with plenty of time to pass all necessary security checks before boarding their flight.

Will people be able to be exempted from needing a scan on religious grounds?

If selected to be scanned, the passenger must be screened by a security scanner, or the alternative, involving at least a private search. Exemptions from this screening will not be granted.

I have metal pins in my legs and also alarm the archway metal detector every time I fly. Can I be exempt from being scanned?

If selected to be scanned, the passenger must be screened by a security scanner, or the alternative, involving at least a private search. Exemptions from this screening will not be granted.

How does ATR work?

In ATR (Automatic Threat Recognition), the security scanner collects data from the millimetre waves. This data is not processed to produce an image of the person being scanned. Instead it identifies features in that data indicative of an anomaly on the body. The results of this are then presented on a standardised stick-figure image. All the processing is done electronically.

How do you ensure that data is destroyed once used? What safeguards are in place?

All technology used in the scanning process is required to have all data storage equipment removed, and USB ports disabled or removed. It must not be possible to save, copy, or transfer data.

Is the security scanner safe?

Yes. The security scanner uses millimetre waves, emitting very low power electromagnetic radiation, many times lower than that emitted by mobile phones. There are no known health risks associated with this.

What about the safety of an unborn child?

There are no known health risks from scanners using active millimetre wave technology, including for expectant mothers. The waves are reflected off the surface of the skin, and are not absorbed.

Will security scanners show the implants or prosthetics of cancer patients?

Unlike some medical devices, the security scanner is designed to image external characteristics of the body. It is not designed to scan internal organs or prostheses.

I have a stoma (colostomy) will this show up on the scan?

The scanner is designed to detect any concealed item on the body of a person. Items such as colostomy bags will be identified by the scanner. Staff are trained to deal with items of this nature sensitively.

Will individuals with a pacemaker/internal defibrillators/an implantable device be made exempt from passing through the scanner?

No. The technology has been assessed by government health and safety regulators and there are no known health risks from being scanned with this technology.

I’m in a wheelchair and can’t stand – what if I’m selected and can’t go through the security scanner?

All passengers are subject to security screening by any of the methods deployed in airport security checkpoints, which includes security scanners, if selected. In order to undergo a security scan it is necessary for the passenger to stand for a few seconds. Whilst this will not be possible for some wheelchair users, others will be able to do so. Newcastle Airport security staff will discuss with passengers whether they are able to stand, but the presumption will be that passengers who can undergo the scan should do so. Passengers who refuse to be screened by the security scanner will be allowed to request a private search alternative.

What happens if I refuse to be scanned? Will my details be recorded?

An alternative form of screening, of at least a private search, will be required if any passenger refuses to be screened by a security scanner. The private search is an enhanced hand-search in private which may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing. This alternative screening method will take significantly more time than passing through a security scanner and, as well as a hand search in private, potentially involves additional security processes. Passengers may also be escorted to a different location in the airport from the main search area, such as a private search room. No passenger details will be recorded.

If you refuse a private search then you will not be offered third means of being screened and, on that occasion, you will not be allowed to fly.

If you would like to make a complaint about any aspect of your journey through Newcastle Airport please email feedback@newcastleinternational.co.uk.

You can find out more about the use of security scanners by visiting the Department for Transport website or by downloading this flyer.