WASHINGTON Durango-La Plata County Airport should have a second X-ray machine for carry-on luggage operational by May or June, just weeks after its body scanner is moved to a different airport, officials said.
The L-3 body scanner nicknamed the Gumby because it produces a generic, cartoon-shaped image of passengers was taken from the airport in mid-February and sent to a larger airport with more traffic to replace a scanner that made explicit, full-body images. Other airports experienced similar measures after finding privacy concerns in a different type of scanner.
The Durango airport is using a single metal detector and pat-downs for security.
The addition of a second X-ray machine is unrelated to the L-3 scanners departure, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., wrote a letter to the TSA on Tuesday, urging the agency to bring the Gumby-like machines back to Colorados smaller airports as soon as possible.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, had conversations with the TSA, according to spokesman Josh Green. Tipton is concerned about the agency disproportionally targeting small airports, especially during the ski season, Green said.
Gary Suiter, interim airport director, said the airport has not suffered any customer-service delays from the loss of the L-3 scanner. However, the Herald reported that at least 20 passengers missed their flights in February because of security-line bottlenecks.
According to the report, lines extended from the checkpoint to the front of the airline ticket counters. The departure lounge became so congested that the security checkpoint has had to temporarily shut down for safety reasons.
But the backups werent the fault of the metal detector, Suiter said. It was the lone X-ray machine.
Those machines have a capacity of X, and thats been the primary pinch point of the delay, he said.
Suiter said he has not heard if or when the airport will get another L-3 scanner, but added that the TSA has worked with the airport to minimize problems.
Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.