Pilot refuses full-body scan at Tenn. airport
ExpressJet Airlines first officer Michael Roberts drew a line in the sand at Memphis International Airport security checkpoint C. He left the airport without boarding a flight to his duty base in Houston, refusing a full-body scan and its alternative, a manual pat-down, by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers.
Scripps Howard News Service
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — ExpressJet Airlines first officer Michael Roberts drew a line in the sand at Memphis International Airport security checkpoint C.
He left the airport without boarding a flight to his duty base in Houston, refusing a full-body scan and its alternative, a manual pat-down, by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers.
Roberts, 35, is waiting to find out whether his protest would cost him his job.
"I'm not trying to throw down the gauntlet with the federal government per se," he said. "I just want to be able to go to work and not be harassed or molested without cause.... I'm just not comfortable being physically manhandled by a federal security agent every time I go to work."
TSA spokesman Jon Allen, said the incident was the first of its kind at the Memphis airport since the agency began rolling out advanced imaging technology, or full- body X-ray scanners, at the airport in September.
Roberts said he had been going through security at Memphis without incident for 4 ½ years. He said Friday was his first time at the checkpoint since new scanning equipment was installed.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the TSA is testing scanners at a checkpoint in the South Terminal, used mainly by international passengers. Five of the 14 machines will be installed there. The north checkpoint, closest to the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air and United Airlines ticket counters, closed Sunday for about two weeks while the TSA installs scanners there.
TSA officials have said passengers are selected to undergo the scan at officers' discretion. The alternative is to be frisked.
Passengers go through metal detectors if they aren't selected for the enhanced screening, Allen said.
Roberts was wearing his pilot's uniform and identification at the time.
"For a guy like this, who is probably going through once or twice a week, who has been doing it four or five years, you'd think they would just know him and say, 'Hi, how are you?' and would just pass him through with normal screening," said Scott Erickson, a Pinnacle Airlines captain who heads Pinnacle's unit of the Air Line Pilots Association.
Erickson said his members are divided over the new procedures, particularly questioning whether health risks are as insignificant as TSA claims. "It's certainly not universal," he said. "Some people have the privacy concern; others don't."
The scanner produces an image of the surface of a person's body and shows items hidden beneath clothing. The image is checked by an officer who is isolated and has no way to personally identify the passenger.
Seattle Times travel writer Carol Pucci contributed to this report.
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