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Unions urge pilots to avoid body scanners at airports

November 11, 2010 |  2:39 pm

Bodyscanner@lax The unions that represent pilots for American Airlines and US Airways have urged their members to avoid the full-body scanners at airport security checkpoints.

The unions, representing a total of 16,500 pilots, say they worry about the health effects of being exposed, sometimes multiple times a day, to the scanner's radiation.

The unions say they also want a separate and more efficient screening process for pilots, instead of having them pass through the security procedures used for passengers.

"The whole system needs serious revisions," said Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Assn., the union representing American Airlines pilots.

The scanners, operating in 65 airports nationwide including Los Angeles International Airport, use radiation to create what looks like a nude image of the person being screened, in order to reveal weapons or contraband hidden under clothing.

The Transportation Security Administration says the levels of radiation emitted by the scanners are too low to pose a health risk.

Still, Overman said, the American Airlines pilots union sent a letter to every member Nov. 1, urging them to opt for private pat-down searches instead of full-body image scans.

In a similar letter sent out to US Airways pilots, US Airline Pilots Assn. President Mike Cleary wrote: "We are not the enemy, and we will not stand for being treated as such before each duty period."

The Transportation Security Administration responded in a statement, saying: "Administrator [John] Pistole is committed to intelligence-driven security measures, including advanced imaging technology and the pat-down procedure, and ordered a review of certain policies shortly after taking office to reinforce TSA’s risk-based approach to security. We look forward to further discussion with pilots on these important issues."

-- Hugo Martín

Photo: A Transportation Security Administration employee demonstrates a full-body scanner at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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