US pilots spared new checks

Uniformed staff of US carriers will be able to bypass heightened security measures brought in after attempted attacks.

    Some pilots were concerned about potential health risks from repeated use of full-body scanners [EPA]

    US airline pilots will be allowed to bypass heightened security screening procedures brought in at United States airports last month.

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) relented on Friday under pressure from pilots angry that they already undergo rigorous background checks.

    "Allowing these uniformed pilots, whose identity has been verified, to go through expedited screening at the checkpoint just makes for smart security and an efficient use of our resources," John Pistole, TSA administrator, said in a statement.

    Extra security measures were brought in after two attempted attacks on US aviation in the past year.

    A Nigerian man tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear aboard a US flight from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas and last month two packages containing explosives made it aboard two US cargo flights.

    Earlier this week, two pilots filed a lawsuit against the TSA and Department of Homeland Security arguing the patdowns and full-body scans they had to undergo violated protections against unwarranted searches afford by the US constitution.

    "This new patdown is significantly more invasive and intrusive than the former patdown in that, among other things, the officer literally places his hands inside the traveller's pants," the lawsuit said.

    'Secure system'

    But pilots will now be able to skip the new screening checks if they are employed by a US carrier, are on airline business and in uniform.

    They will have to show their airline identification and a second form of identification, which will be checked against crew databases, the TSA said.

    "Establishing a secure system to positively identify and verify the employment status of uniformed pilots is a common sense, risk-based approach that allows TSA to dedicate more resources to unknown threats," Paul Onorato, the president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, said in a statement.

    The new measures come as rights groups and some congressmen continue to complain over new full-body scanners installed in 65 US airports. Pilots had also opposed the scanners for fear of the potential health hazards from being forced repeatedly to pass through them.

    The TSA has offered to manually pat-down passengers who refuse to be screened by the devices which take an x-ray of the entire body, but this has also led to a rash of complaints.

    Next week's Thanksgiving holiday will test the capability of the scanners and the officials operating them with calls on the internet for a "national opt-out day" on November 24 that would see fliers snarl air traffic by refusing the checks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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