I won't claim credit, but I will praise pilot Dave Bates of American Airlines for taking pilot complaints about whole body scanning to the right place. He did not take on lowly TSA officers just trying to do their jobs like ExpressJet pilot Michael Roberts did at Memphis International Airport last month.
In a letter to the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, the president of the Allied Pilots Association, American's union, explains that pilots in uniform find the process of undergoing "pat down" security checks demeaning and he asks that some accommodation be made for a private pat-down for pilots who refuse the controversial full body scan.
Hurray for Capt. Bates for doing what so many other pilots have only grumbled about and making a clear case to the proper officials about the unique situation of professional flight crews, who must deal with the time and inconvenience of airport security more frequently than the rest of us. He also explains the flight crews' health concerns over the additional doses of radiation from the backscatter imaging systems. You can read more about Capt. Bates letter here. But before you go, let me opine just a little longer -- after all it is my blog.
Pilots often make the point that treating them as security risks is senseless, considering they are the ones about to take command of all these "protected" airliners. What's overlooked in this argument is that giving pilots a pass through the security check point opens the possibility that someone could scoot through masquerading as a pilot.
Don't discount the possibility without considering that on Tuesday, a pilot for AirTran reported that his bags went missing at Orlando International Airport. Whether he was packing a spare uniform is uncertain, but he was packing heat. The pilot was part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program and his weapon was stolen along with his luggage according to a story in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
Conscientious as they may be, pilots do occasionally get separated from their possessions. As part of a highly-controversial security program in Israel, the government issued individual identity cards to all pilots who will be flying into Israeli airspace. I reported some of the issues involved in this plan for The New York Times in July. Thousands of cards were issued and just as quickly, some of these cards went missing.
All of this is to say that as ridiculous as it looks, sometimes the belt and suspenders approach makes sense. In the safety world we call this redundancy. Does that mean pilots and flight attendants concerns should be ignored? Not at all.
I'm praising Capt. Bates for taking a measured, meaningful approach to finding satisfactory solutions. But I'm also apologizing to Michael Roberts the fed-up ExpressJet pilot. Some of the credit belongs to him for inciting a publicity storm by pushing back at the security gate in Memphis.