Would you let a salesperson in a shoe store use and X-Ray machine to check the fit of your new shoes? Really?
Well, in the 1950s, a type of X-Ray device was used in most states to do just that. It wasn’t until years later that one by one, individual states banned their use. Yet, research tells us that most of the general public viewed the use of such devices as perfectly acceptable.
That leads us to the new scanning machines currently used by the TSA (backscatter X-Ray, and Millimeter Wave technology). TSA and Homeland Security officials tell us that we, essentially, have nothing to worry about. Are you willing to bet your life on their assurances?
A group of professors at a University of California campus has voiced their concerns in a recent letter. If some scientists are concerned should we also be? If you are a parent, do you want your children to pass through these machines? I don’t. And, if you assume that the machines are completely safe today, what happens when one malfunctions next month? Will the problem be detected immediately? How many passengers will pass through a defective unit until the problem is caught?
This is not a politically partisan issue. It is a safety issue which, as do all national issues, comes down to a leadership issue. More specifically, did the leaders at TSA and Homeland Security do everything necessary to ensure the safety of these new machines before installing them at airports and allowing young and old alike to pass through them? Would you want your 5-year-old to pass through them? How about your 15-year-old? If not, would you want your 15-year-old to be subjected to the new “enhanced” pat down (groping) procedure as an alternative?
These are questions that our national security leaders need to address, and they need to do it quickly. The discussion has reached a fevered pitch and proactive leadership is the only thing that will move us along in the right direction. Someone needs to inject common sense into airline security. For now, it is severely lacking. Unfortunately in the short-run, it’ll be left up to you to weigh the radiation issues, against the groping issues, against the overall security issues.
After spending decades as a commercial airline pilot, I can assure you that when you step onboard an airliner, you are in the hands of highly qualified professionals who will do everything in their power to ensure that you will arrive safely at your destination. I only hope that, in the near future, the same will be true of the security process that you go through before you get to the gate.