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(READ) Pilots sue CDC to block mask mandates on federal transportation

Pilots from ten commercial airlines representing six states are suing to block a fourth extension of mandatory masking on flights, citing personal health concerns and aviation safety issues.

The pilots’ lawsuit against the Centers for Disease & Control (CDC) is the first legal challenge to the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate (FTMM) filed by airline workers.

Flights and other public transportation are some of the last places where masks are still strictly required, though most scientists say the measure has not prevented the spread of Covid-19. Many scientists say masks have harmful effects. However CDC and some other scientists disagree.

The FTMM was scheduled to expire March 18, but was recently extended by Biden Administration until April 18. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill to lift the masking requirements, but President Biden has promised a veto.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Janviere Carlin of Massachusetts, a pilot for JetBlue Airways. Carlin says the lawsuit is “patriotic” and “the right thing to do” to protect aviation safety.

As pilots for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the FTMM, with thousands of reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of ‘unruly’ passenger behavior since the FTMM took effect Feb. 1, 2021 – nearly all of which have been caused by incidents related to masks. We have serious concerns about the safety implications of the mask mandate, none of which were studied by CDC or HHS as the policy was rushed into place only 12 days after the inauguration of a new president who made a national mask mandate a top campaign promise – even though he acknowledged it was likely unconstitutional. 

Pilots’ official complaint

Beth Ellis of Massachusetts, a pilot for JetBlue, said it’s insulting that she’s highly trained and entrusted to fly a $45 million jet and be responsible for passengers’ lives, yet the government doesn’t allow her to make her own health decisions.

My job as a pilot is to aviate, navigate, and communicate. With a mask on, my peripheral vision is obstructed and my glasses fog, making aviating and navigating impossible. Communication with a mask makes it difficult for the other pilot and air traffic controllers to understand me, leading to confusion and potential errors. Safety is at risk when unnecessary stress is added to a situation. I shouldn’t have to worry about being disciplined for not consenting to wear a medical device that makes me sick, when safety is my priority.

Beth Ellis, Jet Blue Pilot

Cristina Field of South Carolina, a pilot for PSA Airlines (American Eagle), said the group is suing the CDC because the agency did not factor in pilots’ unique situations and health requirements in rushing the FTMM into place in a matter of days. 

As airline pilots, we trust our governing organizations to have our best interests in mind. When it comes to masks, due diligence wasn’t performed to assess the effects on our physical and mental health. I perform risk/benefit analysis daily as part of my job, and I know the risks of wearing a mask outweigh any benefits. We want to make sure the forced wearing of masks goes away, never to return.

Christina Field, American Eagle Pilot

The official case is Carlin v. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia).

Read more about the lawsuit here.

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