Monday, November 8, 2010

Head of American's Pilots Union Bows Up At TSA Security

Scanners needless invasion of privacy, a heath risk for 11,000 “wings”

Exposed to radiation every day on the job, the men and women who pilot American Airlines' jets from coast to coast and across oceans are advised to request “enhanced pat down” security screening.

“Back scatter” Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) body scanning equipment is hazardous to a pilot's health, according to their union president.

On a trans-Atlantic crossing, wrote Captain Dave Bates, head of the 11,000-member Allied Pilots Association, during “periods of solar flare,” a pilot is subjected to as much radiation as having 100 chest x-rays per hour, much more than any other category of workers in the nation, “including nuclear power plant employees.”

He wrote Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials to say that “Requiring pilots to go through the AIT means additional radiation exposure...It's safe to say that most of the APA leadership shares my view that no pilot at American Airlines should subject themselves to the needless privacy invasion and potential health risks caused by the AIT body scanners...”

A journalist who writes for “The Atlantic” magazine obtained a copy of the letter Captain Bates wrote to his fellow pilots. Jeffrey Goldberg satirized the TSA policy of disallowing pilots pocket knives and bottles of shampoo, but “then they are allowed to fly enormous, fuel-laden, missile-like objects over American cities.”

Not only are most pilots military veterans who have security clearances, they are considered “the last line of defense against another terrorist attack on commercial aviation,” wrote Capt. Bates.

He went further.

“There is absolutely no denying that the enhanced pat-down is a demeaning experience. In my view, it is unacceptable to submit to one in public while wearing the uniform of a professional airline pilot. I recommend that all pilots insist that such screening is performed in an out-of-view area to protect their privacy and dignity.”

When screening delays a pilot's arrival at the cockpit, he recommended, “do not cut corners that jeopardize the safety of the flight. Consummate professionalism and safety are always paramount.”

Since it's for sure they are being videotaped, it's best to “Avoid confrontation,” he advised. Just write a thorough report and turn the security cops in if they treat pilots “with less than courtesy, respect and professionalism,” he told his associates.

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