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AA, US Airways Unions Say ‘No’ to Body Scanners

Resistance to the TSA’s new whole body imaging devices is growing among pilots. The heads of both the US Airways Pilots Association (USAPA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American, have advised pilots to avoid the scanners and rebuked the TSA’s overall approach to airport safety. (Thanks to the Dallas Morning NewsAirline Biz Blog for posting both letters.)

In a letter to the American pilots, APA president Dave Bates writes, “The practice of airport security screening of airline pilots has spun out of control and does nothing to improve national security.

“It is important to note that there are ‘backscatter’ AIT [advanced imaging technology] devices now being deployed that produce ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to your health. Airline pilots in the United States already receive higher doses of radiation in their on-the-job environment than nearly every other category of worker in the United States, including nuclear power plant employees.”

He suggests opting out of the scan, and choosing the enhanced pat-down instead, even though he calls them a “demeaning experience” and recommends pilots “insist that such screening is performed in an out-of-view area to protect their privacy and dignity.”

USAPA president Dan Cleary hit the same theme, albeit with more colorful language. In a letter to US Airways pilots, he says TSA “has offered no credible specifications for the radiation emitted by these machines,” and suggests pilots have a witness present during the alternative pat-down.

He goes on to say, “Let’s be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace … the aircraft … without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors. This situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order. Left unchecked, there’s simply no way to predict how far the TSA will overreach in searching and frisking pilots who are, ironically, mere minutes from being in the flight deck.

“The eyewash being dribbled by the TSA in this instance is embarrassingly devoid of common sense, and we will not stand for it.”

It’s been stated before but is still worth repeating: Putting credentialed pilots through the same security exercises as passengers is absurd. Scanning and patting-down pilots is a waste of time, resources, and attention, and it won’t surprise me one bit if more unions, and more individual pilots, speak out against the TSA’s current practices.

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