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Aviation Security Clarifies Laptop Confusion

Monday, May 6, 2002

Aviation Security Service Clarifies Laptop Confusion

The Aviation Security Service (Avsec) clarified today confusion surrounding the screening of laptop computers that airline passengers wish to carry as cabin baggage.

Avsec General Manager Mark Everitt said the confusion had arisen because the Service was required to apply different levels and methods of searching laptop computers to meet different regulatory requirements. Australia also had different search requirements.

“Passengers on flights bound for United States airports will be asked to turn on their laptop computer and demonstrate that the item works as a laptop computer,” Mr Everitt said. “It will also be the subject of an x-ray inspection.

“The current New Zealand requirement applies to passengers bound for all other destinations – they will have their laptop computer x-rayed as one piece. However, Aviation Security officers may use other search methods at their discretion.”

All other electronic goods are inspected in a similar way.

Some confusion about screening methods has also arisen from recent reports that Australia requires passengers to remove the laptop from its case and remove the battery. These items are x-rayed separately.

“That is not currently required in New Zealand,” Mr Everitt said.

Meanwhile, the Aviation Security Service has commissioned an independent survey to assess the risk of computer disks being corrupted by x-ray detector equipment.

“The survey shows the risk is negligible,” Mr Everitt said. “Damage to disks from x-ray generation is a myth – x-rays have a shorter wavelength than visible light and are unlikely to affect magnetic storage material.”

To corrupt magnetic data, magnetic fields would have to be more than 500 times stronger than that used in modern x-ray machines.

“The Aviation Security Service is very mindful of health and safety issues,” Mr Everitt said. “X-ray scanners used at New Zealand airports are designed so that external radiation is as low as possible.”

ENDS

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