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Pilots association –TSA scans “out of control”

APA's David Bates

The union representing many American Airlines pilots is working to exempt its membership from the Transportation Security Administration’s imaging body scans, saying the screening process “has spun out of control.”

In a Nov. 1 letter to its members provided to Government Security News, Allied Pilots Association president Capt. David Bates recommends that pilots “politely refuse” Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scans and request alternate pat-down searches. He said the pat downs are “demeaning,” unnecessary and recommends pilots request it be done in an out-of-view area away from passengers.

“It’s long past time that policymakers take the steps necessary to exempt commercial pilots from airport security screening and grant designated pilot access to SIDA [security identification display areas] utilizing either Crew Pass or biometric identification,” he told APA members.

The APA represents about 11.000 pilots.

Bates made his recommendations because of concerns over the repeated exposure of pilots to radiation from backscatter X-ray exposure used by AIT technology and because pilots should be a trusted part of air travel security.

He told APA members that he had also written a letter to TSA administrator John Pistole that said pilots “are all keenly aware that we may serve as the last line of defense against another terrorist attack on commercial aviation. Rather than being viewed as potential threats, we should be treated commensurate with the authority and responsibility that we are vested with as professional pilots.”

Despite the humbling pat-downs and scanning procedures, Bates told pilots they should maintain their composure and professionalism when they were performed and avoid confrontations. If pilots felt they were treated unprofessionally, they should file reports with the TSA, he said.

Bates made no mention of the recent high-profile incident in which a pilot for Houston, TX-based ExpressJet Airlines, refused a full-body scan using recently-installed AIT and a physical pat-down at a TSA check point at Memphis International Airport in Tennessee. Instead, it backed the continued use of AIT until less-intrusive technology is implemented at airports.

Another larger airline pilots group, the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) has backed AIT screening procedures. In a statement issued Oct. 22, ALPA said it “fully supports effective airline passenger security screening” after having played a key role in getting screening procedures in place in the early 1970s. It acknowledged the “reservations and concerns” pilots had about AIT, but said, until less intrusive technology is available, AIT is better than metal detectors in finding improvised explosive devices.

ALPA is the collective bargaining representative for 53,000 pilots for 38 U.S. and Canadian airlines.