TSA pulls plug on Orlando's ShoeScanner

A machine that allowed thousands of airline passengers to keep their shoes on at the Orlando airport's security checkpoints is being turned off Wednesday, ending a test that would have removed a major traveling hassle.

The ShoeScanner installed at Orlando International Airport in January is being shut down after the machine failed its latest test at finding explosives hidden in shoes, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said.

"We're a ways away from having something that's going to work," TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said.

The TSA had been testing whether the ShoeScanner could find explosives and let travelers keep their shoes on through checkpoints. Agency chief Kip Hawley has said removing shoes is the biggest security inconvenience for travelers and in August expressed hope that machines could be installed at airports around the USA.

After repeated tests this year, however, the ShoeScanner "still does not meet standards to ensure detection of explosives," the TSA said in a statement Tuesday.

GE Security, the General Electric subsidiary that makes the $200,000 machine, plans to continue working on it, spokesman Steve Hill said.

The ShoeScanner in Orlando was open only to travelers who paid a $100 annual fee to use separate security lines that the airport reserves for members of its Registered Traveler program. The machine was viewed by lawmakers and business-travel groups as a way to bolster a nationwide Registered Traveler program that would shorten checkpoint waits for people who pass a background check and don't need extensive scrutiny.

At California's San Jose International Airport, which opened Registered Traveler lines in January, the potential for travelers to use a ShoeScanner "has been a selling point of the program," airport spokesman Rich Dressler said. San Jose is one of seven airports that installed ShoeScanners this year but were barred from turning them on.

The TSA said Tuesday that the machines in those airports, including Newark, San Francisco and New York's Kennedy, must remain off. The agency had allowed Orlando to operate a ShoeScanner by adding security measures to make up for the machine's deficiencies.

Dressler said he expects travelers to continue to sign up for San Jose's Registered Traveler program because they face shorter security lines "even without the shoe detector." About 6,500 people are enrolled at the airport.

Steven Brill, whose company Verified Identity Pass runs Registered Traveler programs at 11 airports, said he is looking at other technology to speed security lines.