The Associated Press (AP) reports pilots will soon be able to skip airport body scanners and pat downs while on duty. According to the AP, “TSA now says that pilots traveling in uniform or on airline business will see immediate changes in their screening at airport checkpoints.”
On-duty pilots will have to pass through the metal detector and present two pieces of photo I.D. to be checked against a flight crew database. Off-duty pilots will be treated like normal passengers.
According to Reuters, TSA chief John Pistole “acknowledged … that scans and pat downs intended to find explosives and other weapons would offer little protection against any pilot determined to bring down an aircraft.” He told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America (video below), “We’ve had a number of very good discussions with pilots and hope to be announcing something very soon in terms of a good way forward for the pilots for that very reason, using a risk-based intelligence driven process.”
Pistole reiterated, though, that no changes are forthcoming for passengers.
Pilots (as well as passengers, of course), have strongly objected to the TSA’s new screening methods. Several pilots refused to submit to the scans and pat downs, and were denied entry to the airport and, subsequently, missed their assignments. The first and perhaps most prominent of these cases was ExpressJet pilot Michael Roberts, whose objection to the screening and ejection from the airport sparked much of the current backlash against the TSA. Pilots, of course, pass through security far more often than most passengers, and therefore endure far more screenings. They also fly the plane, obviously, meaning they don’t need weapons or bombs if they decide they want to crash the aircraft.
For consumers, it would be a moral victory at best. Pilots neither need nor deserve to be patted down on a daily basis, but it appears the rest of the flying public is stuck with the program. Earlier this week, Pistole told a Senate hearing his agency is working on body scanner software that would portray a generic stick figure rather than an image of a passenger’s body, and suggested this new technology may only be a few months away from implementation. That, at least, is a small glimmer of hope for travelers furious over the scanners’ privacy issues, though it does little to alleviate the current anger over the TSA’s invasive new procedures.