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October 20th, 2010
10:06 AM ET

Pilot refuses full-body security scan, walks out of airport

Pilot Michael Roberts of ExpressJet Airlines refused to undergo the new body-scanning security equipment when he reported to work last week. Today he tells Kiran Chetry why the nude-like screenings are uncomfortable for him.


Filed under: Airline safety
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. CreativeInkInvites.com

    Good for you Michael Roberts for standing up to the TSA bullying. If some of the people on here (saying you should just go along with the screening) had been alive during the American Revolution, we would still be ruled by the Queen of England.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Dirty Sanchez

    He wasn't based in Memphis. If you are a WORKING crewmember, then by all means try to skip the scan. If you are commuting to work, you are just a passenger.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  3. VINCENT

    The Pilot does not have any point for refusing the scan. The scanning is part of the processes at the airport and as a pilot, he should know better and rather advice passengers. Things are done based on ethical point of view. The pilot should not be allowed in without scanning and investigation conducted as its a common practice in the industry.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  4. mike sey

    The notion that pilots should not be scanned because they already have control over a lethal weapon, the plane, is totally bogus. There are plenty of nefarious activities the pilot could be involved in that don't involve crashing the plane into something. Smuggling everything from drugs, cash, stolen art or national treasures to bomb components come to mind. And don't tell me pilots are above that sort of thing by virtue of being pilots..

    October 21, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  5. Pantybuns

    Kudos to Pilot Michael Roberts for having a backbone and saying no. It's about time that people started standing up against the fear-mongering, the invasions of our privacy, and the stripping away of our basic Constitutional rights. Sacrificing freedom makes us less and less free as a country.
    @Bandersnatch: Thank you. You are right on the mark.
    @Keizan: I'm afraid we're well on the way to the nightmare scenarios you mentioned. The "pat downs", strip searches, groping, "cavity searches" that are performed under the guise of "security" and under color of authority all too frequently would be considered felonies if performed by the average citizen. There can be no legitimate excuse for this in a free society.
    @Donna: The very foundation of the country you are living in is the Constitution and its Amendment, The Bill of Rights. You deal with it. If you want to live in a police-state then move to a country that has one. This is supposed to be a free country. YOU deal with it.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  6. Tim Brown

    As a top level frequent flyer, I would love to learn the airlines with whom the pilots who've agreed with this idiot work so that I can make sure I don't ever fly those airlines again. I'm appalled at your apparent lack of understanding when it comes to your obvious responsibility to set a superior example for your passengers.

    American citizens come in all forms: besides plastic surgery and fake ID's can make anyone appear 'American'....ridiculous!

    I gladly step through security and don't mind whatever they need to ask me to do to make sure that I'm not packing a weapon. That's not giving up my civil liberties in the least; that's exactly the care for our fellow man that makes what I used to think was an American ideal.
    Apparently, political dogma trumps our sense of humanity.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  7. Donna

    Regarding the quote cited by an earlier poster - "those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." Stop and think about this: if you don't feel safe, if you don't have security, then how free are you, how much liberty do you really have? For the sake of keeping terrorists out of places they shouldn't be, we law abiding citizens need to accept searches, ID checks, and so on. That's just the reality of our post 9/11 world. Deal with it.

    October 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  8. Lars

    So crew is to bypass security ... must be real difficult to get a fake uniform and id ...... *cough*

    October 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  9. Steve

    Just curious to all the posters that say "I have to go through security so the pilots should, too". As many other posters have said, the pilot does not need to bring a weapon to work if s/he wants to cause harm. They have extensive background checks, unlike the passengers going through security. How about all the ramp personal and gate agents around the country that do not go security? They pose more of a threat. Here is an employee that bypasses security and has access to the aircraft you will be flying. But in the end, your pilot was scanned so you should feel safe. Is that it?

    October 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  10. kelly

    It bears repeating:
    RAMP WORKERS, FUELERS, CATERERS, MECHANICS DON’T GO THROUGH SCREENING TO GO TO WORK!!!

    Why then do the pilots? It’s all for show. “Wow, even the pilots have to go through security!” says the passenger waiting in line. It’s hard not to notice since we cut in front of everybody (which I don’t like to do, but the plane would never leave if we didn’t)

    All while under your feet hundreds of other airport workers with access to YOUR bags and the aircraft DID NOT GO THROUGH SECURITY!!

    Background checks you ask? Why yes…they do a cursory background check for these workers. At my Atlanta based airline we have in the past hired 200 rampers all at once. Two weeks into training, 20% are terminated for “failing” the background check. Meanwhile for TWO WEEKS they have been on the ramp, and in secure areas.

    THAT’S why pilots protest this. Not to mention passengers are exposed to this radiation what 3-4 times a year? How about 140 times a year? You wanna do that?

    Ask yourself this question. Who do you trust more, a college educated, stable professionally trained pilot who has had 10 years of background checks, or a ramper, who has access to YOUR plane and YOUR bags, no high school degree, drug use, and an undisclosed felony under his belt.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  11. kelly

    I think is is worth repeating.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  12. Keizan

    I really wonder about you people who seem to be willing to give up any personal liberty (as well as your dignity) in the name of security. Just think of how different things were 20 years ago, and let's do a little theoretical projection out into the future. Let's say there have been a series of terrorist attacks on shopping malls (like Al Qaeda has been planning for years) and now you have to go through screening to get into a mall. And maybe they decide to use these "naked body scanners", and maybe they're the new and improved 2030 version that really leaves nothing to the imagination. Will you be willing to go through them just to check out the sale at Old Navy? Will you be jeering at people who balk at this and tell them: "nobody's forcing you to go to the mall, if you want your liberty you can just stay home" ? How about another twenty years after that when you have to be willing to submit to the handheld version if you're stopped by homeland security (no probable cause needed – in the name of national security, of course) any time, anywhere, driving, walking, or riding the bus? Do you still have any liberty if you have to stay at home to avoid being electronically strip searched? And what will you say if even your own home is no longer private another twenty years down this road?

    October 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Bandersnatch

    @Kathy: Why would it matter if he did bring a knife on the plane if he can just bring it down into a mountain, building, or anything else he wanted and kill everyone on board? These measures were put in place to keep someone from hijacking the planes. He's the pilot. He already has keys to the kingdom.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  14. Sean

    As an Airline pilot myself, I agree 100% with this gentleman. We are NOT PASSENGERS, we fly the aircraft. We can go all the way down to our birthday suit and do damage!!!

    Rampers, fuelers, caterers, lav cleaners, aircraft cleaners, mechanics do NOT go through security at all. None. Nothing. Yet they can do just as much damage.

    I stand by this guy!! Crewpass NOW!!!!!!

    October 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  15. Ray

    "There are some civil liberties that I can give up to have a safe flight"
    "he should find another line of work", "By the way, you can keep your "liberty" and "personal freedom" by staying in your home.", "no security ck, ground the guy", "This pilot is in the wrong line of work."

    Not only are these comments a pathetic reminder of how Americans are cheering on the fascists in the Federal Government, but to not have the backbone to oppose this sort of stupidity on the part of that government that regularly gets caught stealing from luggage.....pitiful.

    As an airline pilot who also refuses this invasive idiocy, I cheer for him. Personally, as someone who has undergone an in-depth FBI check as a condition of employment, I would point out that a pilot needs no weapon to take out the plane.

    The 4th Amendment was put in place just to protect our citizens from this sort of search without a warrant.

    I support a national day of grounding the planes to protest this sort of over reaching Federal violation of my rights.

    "The rest of us will travel safe." If you believe that statement, you deserve niether safety, nor rights.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  16. Nina

    No Pete, he gave the right answer. These machines that are used to strip search thousands of people every day are an invasion of our privacy and an assault on both our civil liberties and human dignity.

    Michael Roberts is a hero and a patriot. He's exactly the kind of person who should be flying our planes. As a frequent flyer, I find it insulting and disgusting that the federal government has allowed this as part of an administrative search when real law enforcement officers are prohibited by law from performing the same kind of search on people who have been arrested for non-violent, non-drug offenses.

    We, the flying public, suspected of no wrongdoing and charged with no crime are being treated worse than people who have actually been arrested. If it takes Mr. Roberts standing up and saying "This far and no further," I will support him.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  17. Kathy

    I have two knee replacements and would LOVE to sail through security, but that is not going to happen. I get stopped every time and have to be hand patted and checked. This is the reality. I really don't like adding 15 extra minutes to get through security, but that is the way it is. Why won't this pilot go through security like the rest of us? As a passenger, I would love to have some kind of security pass where the airports would have my photo and have had a thorough background check.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  18. John

    Good for him for standing up! As a 30-year now retired major airline captain, I am disturbed at the excess of the TSA in some areas, and its laxness in other areas. The system has many flaws.

    After 21 years in the military, and as a combat veteran with the highest security clearances, as an airline pilot I was pulled out line to be hand-wanded every day at work – because I have a lot of metal in my body.

    Even though many TSA personnel knew me after years of passing through their security, they still were required to hand-wand me after I set off the alarm. It was a waste of manpower, and added unnecessarily to the long lines. I also had to tell my crew to go ahead without me to the plane.

    Technology is available to identify pilots – people who have already been thoroughly screened, and indeed have weapons available to them once onboard the plane – to quickly pass through security without the daily hassles of overzealous TSA personnel.

    If you trust your pilots with your lives in the air, why can't TSA identify and trust pilots on the ground?

    October 20, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  19. Bandersnatch

    Wow, I just remembered why I don't come to any of the big media websites anymore. It's not the fault of CNN that some of the commenters are the way they are, but this is ridiculous. Let's forget that the guy is a pilot and holds your life in his hands in the first place. Let's forget that if he wanted he could destroy huge buildings and the lives of everyone on board. Let's forget the fact that he doesn't need to get anything past a checkpoint to do those things. Do you really believe that this kind of thing increases security? How? If I wanted to sneak something on a plane, I could shove it up my butt. Backscatter scanners won't see that. I could have it in sealed plastic vials that would not set off a metal detector. I could put the contraband items in a condom and swallow them. How does this provide any greater security?

    What in the world happened to the great defenders of our freedoms? What happened to "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"? Where is your outrage, your love of being truly free? Instead of that, you would rather someone tell you just how safe you are while they implement useless hurdle after hurdle that law abiding innocent citizens have to go through.

    You people make me sick.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  20. Pete

    "Well passengers are going through this machine....why not the pilots?"

    Pooched the answer, the PROPER answer is because 5 minutes after a pilot passes the same security screening, he is going to take an airplane full of passengers and FLY THEM SOME PLACE!!!! If you trust us in the air, then we should be trusted at security. There is a system in place called "Crew Pass" where our ID's and a picture of the pilots can be verified and allowed to bypass security screening. Crew Pass is in place at a few airports and there have been NO problems with it.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  21. George

    There is a reason why TSA allows you to refuse the full body scannner. This grimey operation we call TSA lacks both common sense and standardazation. What's the point of a pilot getting a full body scan, if a TSA agent, ramper/bag loader, and gate agent are bypassing TSA through the back door. Security...really?

    October 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  22. David

    You need to inform yourself on this issue. I know you have likely been brainwashed by the system, but seriously do at least a basic Google search before commenting please. YOU DO have the right to refuse the body scanner. Know your rights! You can read about this on tsa.gov. I refuse the body scanner every time I am selected and will continue to do so. There will never be a reason to violate the constitutional rights I have as a US citizen. Even if you are one of those frightening people that think they have to do whatever a government employee demands of you, you should consider that most of the TSA are not even government employees. Stand up for your rights people! For your review here's the 4th Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." I know most human beings would consider appearing naked on camera to be "unreasonable."

    October 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  23. Val

    It seems that since he mentions that he "has more children than most" that whether or not he has a job SHOULD be a priority "at this point" to ME, but then that's just me. I'm not him. All I know is that when I travel by air I don't have the option of refusing the scan either and that's for my safety as well as others. My guess is that he chose to be a pilot before 911 occurred and unfortunately he has to deal with the necessary evil which is the invasion of his privacy which we are all feeling whenever we travel by air or go into a courtroom, prison, the White House or go anywhere where high security is absolutely necessary. If I am asked for I.D. when I use my credit card I gladly hand over my identification because I feel that I am being protected from fraud at that moment. As much as I hate being scanned or asked to remove my shoes (or despise seeing a mommy remove her LITTLE BABY'S SHOES!!) I have the sense to realize that these measures are in place to PROTECT US from being victims of another terrorist attack like 911. They didn't do enough back then to protect us and now it's overkill to make sure it doesn't happen again and yet EVEN STILL here and there someone will slip through a crack every now and then. Either Mr. Roberts must accept that he is no exception to what everybody else must tolerate by law or he should find another line of work. He has more than just himself to think about after all.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  24. OscarDelta5

    There has to be a line where safety and common-sense come together.
    I don't know what the solution is but, I don't blame the pilot for refusing this invasion of privacy, not to mention a public viewing of him virtually nude.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  25. Robert

    @ Chris

    Riiiiiight! So knowing the loophole Al Qaeda is now going to recruit an American Muslim for the job.

    By the way, you can keep your "liberty" and "personal freedom" by staying in your home. No one is forcing you fly in a plane or become a commercial pilot. The rest of us will travel safe.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  26. Naomi M Siemens

    There are some civil liberties that I can give up to have a safe flight. Groping and prodding are not necessary.

    My biggest concern is what all of the radiation is doing.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  27. gena halpin

    I agree with Chris. You would think at least that this guy is a pilot and would perhaps be able to walk thru the normal scanner. Why he has to do a physical 'pat down' is beyond me. It is tragic, sad and disgusting that it has come to this. If someone 'touched me inappropriately' I would have issues as well. This is just plain tragic. I commend this man for going forward with this.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  28. Jerry

    Jerry | 7 min ago
    Has anyone thought about that fact that this pilot has gone through a very in depth background check for many years and is prob one of the most secure people in a airport. Plus what would he ever need to sneak any kind of weapon through security for. Bomb, gun, knife, nail clippers ect. The guy flies the biggest weapon there is. A aircraft weighing many tons with a huge amount of jet fuel on it. That's the dam weapon. So give the guy a break if you trust him to fly you around why don't you trust him through security. Also do you guys realize how many pilots carry guns now. And how many weapons are acually in the cockpit of these planes. This is typical government bs.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  29. Chris

    Good for him. Somebody needs to stand up for our rights. The people that attacked us on 9/11 were not U.S. citizens and thus deserve more scrutiny. American citizens however should never be subjected to a pat down search or full body scan on American soil without probably cause. You people that believe that we should continue to sacrifice liberty and personal freedom for security scare me more than any terrorist ever could.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  30. Robert V

    This pilot is in the wrong line of work.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:24 am |