Shoe Scanners at the Orlando Airport

I flew through Orlando today, and saw an automatic shoe-scanner in the lane for Clear passengers.

Poking around on the TSA website, I found this undated page. It seems they didn’t pass the TSA tests, and will be discontinued:

The shoe scanning feature on the machine presented for testing on August 20 does not meet minimum detection standards. While significant improvements were made, (in fact a new machine was submitted) the shoe scanner still does not meet standards to ensure detection of explosives.

GE’s been apprised of these results and TSA and GE have agreed to continue working together. TSA and its partners at the laboratory stand ready to further test the GE shoe scanner feature upon completion of additional detection capability enhancements to meet the agreed upon security requirements.

The machine currently in use in Orlando does not meet minimum detection standards and several additional security measures are required by TSA to mitigate the shortfalls of the shoe scanner feature. Accordingly, the prototype shoe scanner used in Orlando will be discontinued, effective October 10. It had been hoped that an acceptable scanner would be available, but given that the lab prototype does not meet all standards, TSA will not authorize the shoe scanner feature for security purposes in any of the airports where it is currently deployed and awaiting use. The GE Kiosks may be used to read biometric cards associated with the Registered Traveler program but will not provide a security benefit.

Posted on October 10, 2007 at 4:02 PM22 Comments


spike's copilot October 10, 2007 7:42 PM

Oh neat.

I’ve just started traveling to Orlando regularly on business. Actually, I’m in Orlando right now on my fourth trip since the beginning of August. After the horror story that was my last return trip from MCO, I was ready to plunk down the $$ for Clear.

I’m glad I didn’t.

(The last time I went through MCO, the passenger directly in front of me had a US Passport, didn’t speak a word of English and had a ticket with a different name on it. With much haggling, they let her through. After going through the x-ray, her bag was inspected by hand and the TSA agent retrieved a couple full-size bottles of hair products and a six-pack of Red Bull wrapped in several t-shirts and plastic bags. And they let her keep the stuff.

Someone explain to me how any of this makes me safer? Oh yeah. It doesn’t.)

Micah October 10, 2007 8:22 PM

I hope they called it the Richard Reid 2000. The man has done more to advance post-9/11 security than anyone. He managed to stuff explosives into the one item that’s most time-consuming to check. We have no problem dumping everything else on the conveyor belt. I’ve seen wallets full of money, wedding rings but our shoes! No one likes to remove their shoes, especially Americans. I think of punching Reid in the face every time I have to do it.

Kadin2048 October 11, 2007 12:08 AM

In everything that I’ve read about airport security in the past few years, only once have I seen an article in a mainstream media source that seemed to be close to getting it. (Ironically it was from the Boston Globe’s op-ed page; Google “what israeli security could teach us” to find it.)

In the U.S. we’re obsessed with intercepting bad things, while in other countries, they have (correctly) realized that the problem is not bad things, but bad people.

But for some reason we steadfastly refuse to acknowledge this. It’s as if we’re so hung up on our fear of labeling people as “bad,” that we can only deal with inanimate objects. And in neglecting the human element — which is clearly the root of the problem — we leave ourselves open to any novel attack.

John Davies October 11, 2007 2:34 AM

Oh I see, that sort of shoe scanner. I had visions of:

“Brown brogues with that suit – I think not Sir. Please come with me for some fashion re-education”

aze October 11, 2007 2:43 AM

@Kadin204 8

Not bad things and not bad people; People with bad intent. One day the man is a US supporting interpreter working on your side. The next day you kill his entire family. The next day he is a threat. One day he’s a loyal pilot for “US air”. The next day you kidnap his family and force him to cooperate with you. Looking for bad people is something that can be mesured from the outside and there are studies which show that this means terrorists can always work out which of them has been missed. This allows them to improve their chance of attack.

FP October 11, 2007 8:50 AM

@spike’s copilot:

Last time I checked, not speaking english and having a ticket in a different name did not present any threat to aviation, no matter what passport you might have.

Nat October 11, 2007 9:40 AM

I remember for a while at O’Hare, they had little boxes that you could step on and “pre-test” your shoes. You just put a foot up on it and if the light went on, you had to take your shoes off. I can’t remember if they were pre-Reid or not, as they would suggest that the whole business of taking off your shoes is about just not setting off the metal detector, rather than actually x-raying the shoes for anything dangerous.

Either way, this sort of thing is why I try to wear crocs whenever I fly.

John Hardin October 11, 2007 1:21 PM

Nat sez:

Either way, this sort of thing is why I try to wear crocs whenever I fly.

From my .sig file:

I’m seriously considering getting one of those bright-orange prison
overalls and stencilling PASSENGER on the back. Along with the paper
slippers, I ought to be able to walk right through security.
(Brian Kantor in a.s.r)

spike's copilot October 11, 2007 6:01 PM


I was more surprised that:

  1. A person who does not speak a word of English can get a U.S. Passport. I was under the impression that you had to show some mastery of the language in order to become a citizen. We don’t hand out passports to non-citizens, do we?
  2. With the seemingly huge emphasis on ID’ing us all, and considering that they check the name on my ID against the name on my ticket I was surprised they would let a person use a ticket that didn’t have the same name as their presented ID.
  3. That they would allow the liquids through instead of tossing them.

I agree that none of those things truly make us safer; I had more of a “and we have rules why?” reaction upon seeing all of this transpire in front of me. Seriously… WTF are they checking ID and why are they spending my tax dollars on “3-1-1” posters…..

Peter E Retep October 11, 2007 6:47 PM

When some old guys I know were kids, they tell me they had flouroscopes to examine shoe fit in every Buster Browne shoe store, and they were very popular until radiation got tied to cancer. Ooops.
Nowadays the electromagnetically innumerate fear radio radiation from cell phones. Yet another reason for the 20% decline in American air-borne tourism?

w October 11, 2007 8:26 PM

@ spike’s copilot:

You can get US citizenship if you’re born in the US, even if you move away shortly afterwards. You can get US citizenship through marriage to a citizen. You can also be a citizen and seem to not speak much English because you’re not interested or don’t want to speak it at the moment.

derf October 12, 2007 11:13 AM

I guess a shoe scanner would have to fail spectacularly, since most suicide bombers strap the explosives around their midsection.

Peter E Retep October 12, 2007 6:42 PM

re: spike’s copilot

1- You can have a US passport and not be a US citizen: examples: Dependent of a citizen, Refugee, and Immigrant pending citizenship, member of US Armed Forces.

2- You can be a US citizen and NOT SPEAK English: examples: advanced age or disability, child of citizens, member of First Nation speaking own language; Also, any “Spanish speaker who finds [him]self within the borders of the United States or descendants of same” – are guaranteed all social services and citizenship services in Spanish.
per Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848(?)

Or, you can be a mix of categories.

john g October 13, 2007 8:24 PM

I don’t believe that any country in the world makes air travellers take off their shoes to go through security, except when they are travelling to the United States (so they do, to comply with US rules or people would not be allowed to fly there.)

At Heathrow in London and in Frankfurt (and no doubt many other airports), there are separate sections of the terminals for flights to the US (or sometimes to North America) and separate and more demanding security for them. Given the experience of several other countries with terrorism, this is not because the US is a more vulnerable target, only because the US is more paranoid than anywhere else.

Fofa October 15, 2007 9:53 PM

Shoe explosives? Honestly, how big of explosion can happen from a shoe size bomb? I understand sharp objects or pocket knifes to be hidden in shoes but not explosives.

Fofa October 15, 2007 9:57 PM

“I don’t believe that any country in the world makes air travellers take off their shoes to go through security, except when they are travelling to the United States (so they do, to comply with US rules or people would not be allowed to fly there.)”

I second that, there isn’t much dangerous stuff you can place inside your shoe to hurt more than one person on the plane.

Airport Observer November 30, 2007 4:15 AM

This has become a virus in the air travel business. At root it is a political power statement which started off small and then due to the vote-getter of providing jobs in the form of a new Government Agency, became what it is today, a denial of freedom in America and a contradiction of the Constitution. Letters to Law Professors, Senators, Congressmen, Airport Managers, and requests for a formal grievance brought no response and not even any assurance that the next Presidential election would alleviate the problem. The key is that it forces an unprofessional appearance on people in public, whereas the term used by the Judges “administrative search” is of overly broad scope and obviously is in conflict with the Constitution, inasmuch as it allows the government agency workers to go through people’s pockets without the “reasonable suspicion” well-known in law to be required for an arrest. The airport, is it a “public building”, that is in the sense of a government building, museum, city hall, municipal center, court, sports stadium, theater, etc.?
The answers to my letters seem to state that they, meaning the Government, can impose these “administrative searches” wherever “deemed necessary”. The paranoia has, to some extent, proliferated into private buildings, the Capital Hill buildings, museums and elsewhere. It’s a police-state type psychology something like a cultural mental illness. The airport security has been proven to be ineffective against carried-on items as demonstrated recently on TV by CBS undercover people. How can powder or solid or liquid devices of advanced technical design be detected by the X-ray machines? Who can believe that the X-ray shoe scan works either before or after the embarassed passenger is ordered to carry-out the unprofessional disrobement? Who can believe that every baggage item can be
checked in the non-carry-on luggage?
The illegal procedures are not professional security methods, but in reality are proceeding from financial systems related to government budgets.
There are “shoe check” machines in use in some foreign airports which circumvent the act of indecent exposure being forced on people in the airports, but again, you can’t tell what kind of powder or other explosive or whatever they’ll come up with, which would get through such machines, in any case.
The main point is, the enforcers have their salaries based on keeping the airport checkers and scanning machine people, and everyone else, including the
Government, Congress and Supreme Court on line with a mistaken notion.
It is extremely expensive, not just monetarily but also for reason of lost time, prestige, and anxiety on the part of the passengers, who have their rights as fare-payers, not withstanding insurance issues, in any case. So, if you were worried at all or signifigantly, wouldn’t it make sense to ignore the scare-publicity to turn to insurance? We all know the Airlines and the Government who are responsible for the paranoid reaction are completely insured, but we are not. Moreover, it has been fueled by the oil crisis and foreign politics to such an extent that security is not the real issue, but only the continuence of financial support for the subversive system it has unwittingly become.

Security Expert November 25, 2009 1:42 AM

Now the airports, such as one at Salt Lake City are becoming something like a
medical office wherein people are examined by see-through machines or “patted-down”. The Congressional bill against the disturbing situation of morally offensive see-through machines at the airports is an uimportant advance against the creeping government controls
at the airports. Don’t people realize that
a real question of indecent exposure is raised by the use of invasion of privacy

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