TSA exempts U.S. airline pilots from pat-downs and body scans


After weeks of pressure from pilot unions over controversial new airport screening measures, the Transportation Security Administration agreed Friday to exempt pilots from enhanced pat-downs and full-body scans.

Pilots flying for U.S. carriers and traveling in uniform will immediately start going through expedited screening after two forms of their identification are checked against a secure database, TSA Director John Pistole said in a statement.

Airline pilots had complained when the agency refused to exempt them from pat-downs, seen as too intrusive, and full-body scans, which union leaders said would put pilots at risk for increased exposure to radiation.


“Allowing these uniformed pilots, whose identity has been verified, to go through expedited screening at the checkpoint just makes smart security and an efficient use of our resources,” Pistole said.

The changes do not affect policies for screening flight attendants or passengers.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, pilot organizations have contended that because pilots are already vetted, screening procedures should focus on verifying their identity using biometric data, such as retinal scans or fingerprints.

Talks among the airlines, TSA and pilot unions had been stalled for years over how such a secure identity system would be funded. On Friday, the TSA told the pilot unions that the administration would implement a long-term plan to use biometric screening for cockpit crew members, said Capt. Sam Mayer, communications chairman for the Allied Pilots Assn.

“We want TSA to concentrate on the threat, and clearly the pilots are not the threat. We are the targets,” said Mayer, whose union represents 11,500 American Airlines pilots.

Pilots who believe the TSA’s search methods are excessive have sued the agency. Michael Roberts, a commercial pilot from Memphis, filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that the new procedures violate his constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.