Pilot punished for showing TSA the truth


His original video posted on YouTube was fuzzy and jumpy, which you might expect from a cell phone, but it was enough for TSA to show up at the home of the person capturing those images with four Sky Marshals and two sheriff’s deputies, and confiscate the man’s handgun which they had issued to him because he was authorized to carry weapons as part of the government’s armed pilots program. They also ordered him to remove the video from YouTube.

According to a report on ABC World News on Thursday, December 23, 2010, the anonymous pilot, who lives in Sacramento, CA, works for a major airline. His TSA issued gun was taken away from him because he revealed “sensitive airport security information” about operations at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

That information was already well known. Airport employees just have to scan their ID to gain access to the field in order to service aircraft, without going through TSA security or be further screened.

ABC News reported that the pilot received a letter from TSA saying, “A Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) must not engage in conduct that impairs the efficiency of TSA or causes the loss of confidence in TSA. The content and subject of these videos may have violated regulations concerning disclosure of sensitive security information.” The pilot is calling the government’s reaction “overkill”, telling ABC that it was the “fallacy of the system” that inspired him to take this action.

He says he has worked for his airline for over 10 years, and was also an Army reserve helicopter test pilot. He was deputized by TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit. But he said he’d had enough, and wanted to do what he could to draw attention to what he considers a major problem in airport security.

“People don’t understand that when they walk through the TSA checkpoints, now they are getting a groping, but they don’t understand that all those people you see outside, the ground personal, all the caterers, all the airline cleaners, they get virtually nothing,” the pilot said in an interview with ABC News.

His attorney, Don Werno of Santa Ana, CA, claims that the incident and gun confiscation was meant to send a stronger message to him, which was “You’ve angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we’ve spent millions of dollars to improve airport safety.”

ABC television aviation consultant Ron Wilson agrees. He is a former airline pilot who still has a gate pass, and sees the system as flawed, “I have to admit that pretty much what he is saying is true. All they have to do is take their ID and scan it through a scanner and they’re on the airfield.”

Others airline professionals have complained about alleged TSA hypocrisy. The same issue has come up before when First Officer Michael Roberts, a pilot with ExpressJet Airlines (XE), which operates as Continental Express, refused a TSA Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) full body scanner at Memphis International Airport (MEM), and further opted out of an enhanced pat down. He was denied boarding, put on suspension by his company, and after making the rounds of the morning talk shows with his attorney, eventually decided to sue the agency for their arbitrary policies.

It would seem logical that if we allow pilots to safely fly us to our destinations, and give them responsibility for the lives of hundreds of passengers each day, that they have already proven they can be trusted.

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