Published On : Wed, May 24th, 2017

Drama at airport when an edible powder is suspected of being TNT!!!

Nagpur: We know for sure there is one passenger who was hoping to fly out of Nagpur airport today who is ruing the indulgent action of a mother/ mother in law who tend to load visiting dear ones with “healthy, home – made stuff” which they are sure only they can provide.

One such package of a ‘brown powder’ cost him his flight to Mumbai, and probably would have affected his onward flight to New York if he had not been sent to Mumbai post haste after the scare was proved to be ‘false’. But for a while ‘the powder’ created a stir and a scare at the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport when an ETD machine indicated that a passenger could be carrying TNT or some similar material.

What is ETD ?

It is Explosive Trace Detection and is an international technology that is fast gaining ground as a crucial tool is stopping terror attacks at airports world over.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of USA announced recently that it is expanding the random use of Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) technology at airports nationwide as an additional layer of security.

“Explosive Trace Detection technology is a critical tool in our ability to stay ahead of evolving threats to aviation security,” said TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. “Expanding the use of this technology at checkpoints and at departure gates greatly enhances security to keep the traveling public safe.”

Passengers traveling from any airport can now expect to see the increased random use of ETD technology in areas where TSA currently conducts screening such as the security checkpoint, as well as in the checkpoint queue, and boarding areas. Officers may swab a piece of luggage or passengers’ hands, then use ETD technology to test for explosives. The swab is placed inside the ETD unit which analyzes the content for the presence of potential explosive residue.

The Check at Nagpur

When the ETD check at Nagpur indicated that the powder was possibly ‘explosive’ word went out that ‘someone was caught with TNT at the airport.’

TNT), or more specifically 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, is a chemical with the formula C6H2(NO2)3CH3. This yellow-colored solid is sometimes used as a reagent in chemical synthesis, but it is best known as an explosive material with convenient handling properties. The explosive yield of TNT is considered to be the measure of bombs and other explosives. Needless to say, it is a popular material with terrorists.

The passenger, who is a software engineer working in USA, was asked to step by while all the concerned agencies were summoned to test the material and find out what it was.

A number of agencies can get involved – Bomb disposal squads from Mumbai, chemical analysis lab of Govt., anti bomb squads of police etc. etc.

When NT heard of this incident, we called all concerned officers of the airport to find out what was happening.

After the Safety Manager had confirmed that a ‘suspicious powder found with a passenger’ was being tested ‘since it looked similar to TNT’, everyone else clammed up. They were either ‘very busy in meetings the whole day’ or on ‘leave’ today, or had just come on duty!! The shroud of secrecy was very suspicious, to say the least.

Finally, it was a call to the Police Commissioner, Dr. Venkateshan, that we learnt of the truth.

“Madam, it was nothing but Amla powder!!” He also clarified that ” the passenger has been released and has gone on to his destination.”

(NT has found that it was not just Amla powder – it was mehendi + Amla powders which are not easily available in USA).

Is Nagpur airport under more threat these days? ( Quite possible, it being the H.Q. of … you know organization at Reshim Bag!!)

No more or no less than any other Indian airport, said the P.C.

P.S. Better safe than be sorry, we say again…!

Remember the Christmas Day in USA when ETD failed to apprehend explosives and the resulting bomb explosions that caused death and damage ?

Better to suspect Amla of being TNT than let TNT go as Amla!!!