Pilots, Patdowns, and Rest Rules

Just wanted to put my two cents in on two aviation topics that are currently in the news: “naked body scanners” at TSA security screenings, and FAA reform of pilot rest rules.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 is National Opt-Out Day. It is an awareness campaign, cleverly planned for the busiest travel day of the year, to get the attention of lawmakers. Travelers are encouraged to opt-out of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT, or “naked body scanners“) and request an enhanced manual pat-down. According the the official website:

It’s the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an “enhanced pat down” that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner.  You should never have to explain to your children, “Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK.”

The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change.  We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.  This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.

It’s more than just a traveler issue for me, it’s an issue of common sense. Pilots and other crew members are subjected to security searches day after day, and are exposed to potentially harmful radiation levels. Many airline unions have encouraged pilots to refuse the AIT scanners and request the pat-down everytime. Unfortunately, I don’t have the highest opinion of many TSA agents…many are young, inexperienced, and exploit the power trip that their uniform affords them. If my husband’s junk is going to be manually examined, I’d prefer it not to be done by a TSA agent. My friend Sam, a regional captain, wrote an excellent post on security silliness required for pilots. Why are crew members practically strip-searched when they have the greatest weapon at their disposal (the airplane), should they choose to cause a disaster? Will fingernail clippers or a shampoo bottle over 3.4 ounces be more dangerous? It just doesn’t make sense.

The other issue under discussion is regarding the FAA’s proposed Flight Time/Duty Time requirements. These new rules allow a reduction in the amount of hours a pilot may have on the ground, while increasing the total hours they may be on duty. Sully Sullenberger, the captain of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” is encouraging the traveling public to  lobby to have the proposed rules revised for safety. Please watch the following video, and visit the Coalition of Airline Pilot Association website to create letters to send to your local government officials.

Important Message From Captain Sully Sullenberger

Help keep the friendly skies safe, one pilot at a time!