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The PNNL-developed shoe scanner builds on millimeter wave technology used in passenger scanners deployed at airports to detect concealed weapons. (Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

The time is coming when you won't have to take your shoes off before passing through airport security.

Why it matters: Removing shoes at the TSA checkpoint is one of the most inconvenient rituals of flying in the U.S.

  • With newly developed shoe scanning technology — plus enhancements in existing body scanners — passengers will be able to get to their gates faster.

The improved screening tech was developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  • PNNL developed the body scanning booths already in use for about 15 years at airports worldwide.
  • They came up with the shoe scanner while working on a high-definition body scanner that can better identify threats while cutting down on false alarms requiring secondary screening.
  • PNNL recently licensed both technologies to a security company called Liberty Defense Holdings. Liberty plans to install them in airports starting in about 18 months.

How it works: Passengers pause for about two seconds on a low platform, where electromagnetic waves generate an image of the bottom of their shoes.

  • That allows screeners to detect whether there's a hidden object that may constitute a threat.

Flashback: In December 2001, three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Richard Reid attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his sneakers on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami.

  • Passengers thwarted his plan, and the plane landed safely in Boston.
  • Since 2006, airlines passengers have been required to remove their shoes before passing through security unless they are cleared via TSA Pre-Check.

The bottom line: Adding the shoe scanner could speed up the screening process by 15 to 20 percent, according to Liberty CEO Bill Frain.

  • Eventually, the goal is to screen passengers without stopping as they pass through a tunnel toward the airport gate.

Go deeper

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.