Pilots' unions oppose full-body scans, searches

November 9, 2010 5:24:55 PM PST
If you have gone through airport security at O'Hare, Midway or any other major airport recently, then you know that there is new screening equipment in place and procedures to search travelers.

Thousands of pilots who fly jetliners are angry about those changes.

There are two issues; two major pilots' unions say the full-body scanners are untested and potentially unsafe because of the radiation they expose travelers to. And the second issue is the new procedure for hand searches by Transportation Security Administration officers at airport checkpoints. Both have produced scathing memos about the TSA from the pilots' unions.

Thousands of pilots, who must pass through security just like everyone else who boards commercial aircraft, should not submit to full-body scans, according to their unions. The concern is a potential health risk to pilots from repeated doses of radiation.

Under new stringent regulations, pilots and passengers may refuse the body scanners but then undergo more extensive hand searches, including open hands frisking genital and breast areas.

Last week, 11,000 pilots at American Airlines received a pointed directive from their union, the Allied Pilots Association.

On Tuesday, a pilots' alert came from the president of the union that represents cockpit personnel at U.S. Airways. USAPA president Mike Cleary says that TSA procedures are "blatantly unacceptable" for pilots who shouldn't have to undergo passenger screening and then fly the planes.

The hand searches that follow have "already resulted in one sexual molestation," according to the memo, the result of TSA's "overreach" in searching and frisking pilots and passengers, TSA procedures that Cleary calls "embarrassingly devoid of common sense."

In a statement, the TSA says that it is a "counterterrorism agency whose mission is to ensure the safety of the traveling public." To achieve that, "the TSA says it deploys the latest technologies and implements comprehensive procedures that protect passengers while facilitating travel."

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