BAKERSFIELD, CA - Critics call it a $26 million failure. The Federal Aviation Administration is yanking full body scanners out of airports nationwide, Including the one here in Bakersfield.
The Transportation Security Administration is taking the full body scanner out of Meadows Field Airport and replacing it with a metal detector. Our scanner is considered state-of-the art and it's headed to a busier airport.
Airport director Jack Gotcher said, "This is the latest that TSA has, it's their newest scanner technology and it's been here for 6 or 8 months."
Meadows Field Airport's full body scanner meets federal requirements, but 174 machines in larger airports around the United States don't.
"The older technology scanner raised a lot of concern and what they're trying to do is move these out of airports that are small and don't have a whole lot of people all day long, to airports that are larger and will use them all day," said Gotcher.
The FAA's Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires all body scanners to have new software by June 1st, 2013. The update changes the image TSA agents see from a detailed picture of the person being scanned, to only a generic outline.
At about $150,000 a piece, those 174 scanners are now useless because they show too much. That's more than $26 million of taxpayer money.
Business traveler Ron Bair said, "It's a huge waste. They spent a whole lot of money deploying them all over the United States. There wasn't much public feedback about it and they just kind of made an executive decision to do it. We had to pay for it and now all of these are going to go to waste."
"I did not mind the full body scans, you know, as long as it's in the interest of safety. I think that's important but it is kind of worrisome that we have to pay for so much equipment and then change it all out to something new," said traveler Christine Sale.
Business traveler Joel Ramsey said, "it was definitely a waste to go through and install and use all the money to put them in and then to turn around and now be rescinding that and taking it back and now replacing them and going back to the same technology that was there beforehand."
Gotcher said the original technology isn't any less safe and won't cause a delay for travelers.
"Somewhere along the line they may put something back here but, for right now, this is just putting the highest value and we'll go back to the magnetic detectors. It may be a little bit slower, but I don't think it'll be that big of problem for us," said Gotcher.
A TSA spokesperson says Rapiscan, the company that designed the original software, will pay the cost for the machines to be removed and stored. It's unclear what will happen to the machines in the future.