CHARLOTTE, N.C. (
) -- U.S. airline pilots will be able to pass through airport security without being screened, the Transportation Security Administration has decided.
Starting next year, pilots will be able to pass through checkpoints if they can produce proof of their identity, said John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, in an interview with
"This one seemed to jump out as a common-sense issue," Pistole said. "Why don't we trust pilots who are literally in charge of the aircraft?" He said he is also talking with flight attendants about similar exemptions.
In recent weeks, pilot unions including the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, which represents
about subjecting pilots to either frequent screening with full body scanners, which emit a small level of radiation, or to the alternative, intrusive pat-downs.
"We welcome the TSA's action," said USAPA spokesman James Ray on Friday. "The number-one goal of any airline pilot is the safety and security of the passengers. This decision will enhance the efficiency of the security system by enabling more time for TSA personnel to address potential terrorists rather than pilots."
Ray said USAPA have been actively engaged in pursuing a solution with TSA leaders during the past week in meetings and conversations. He said USAPA President Mike Cleary met with top TSA officials in Washington on Nov. 16.
In a letter to members last week, Cleary wrote: "Based on currently available medical information, USAPA has determined that frequent exposure to TSA-operated scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks.
"Pilots should not submit to AIT screening," Cleary noted. "As pilots, we are [already] exposed to more radiation as a function of our normal duties than nearly every other category of worker in the United States."
Additionally, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents pilots at
, and the Air Line Pilots Association, a multi-carrier pilot union with 53,000 members, have sought changes.
In a letter to American pilots, APA President Dave Bates wrote that pilots are "keenly aware that we may serve as the last line of defense against another terrorist attack on commercial aviation. Rather than being viewed as potential threats, we should be treated commensurate with the authority and responsibility that we are vested with as professional pilots," Bates said.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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