Hands Off

Airport checkpoint revolt


“I just want to be able to go to work and not be harassed or molested,” Michael Roberts told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I’m just not comfortable being physically manhandled…every time I go to work.” So on a Friday in mid-October, the pilot finally took a stand against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Roberts, a first officer for ExpressJet Airlines, refused to submit to a full-body scan at the Memphis International Airport. He also declined the alternative pat-down. Since the TSA would not let him through the security checkpoint without one or the other, he was unable to fly to his duty base in Houston. Later he called the TSA a “make-work” program that does little to enhance the safety of air travel. “I don’t believe this approach is a necessary or effective way to mitigate the threat,” he said.

Although the TSA later said uniformed pilots will be exempt from the new procedures, Roberts plans to challenge them on First Amendment grounds. “I’m not against airline security, but this is not security in any stretch of the imagination,” he told a Memphis TV station. “It’s not reasonable when you walk into the airport, and just because you want to fly on an airplane that they should strip search you, or physically put their hands on your crotch, or feel your body from top to bottom.”