“Watch-listed” Pilot Returns to Work

 - October 8, 2008, 7:50 AM

Manassas, Va.-based regional airline Colgan Air has allowed Saab 340 first officer Erich Scherfen to return to work after he and his wife sued the U.S. government for allegedly placing them on a terrorist watch list. Scherfen, a New Jersey native and veteran of the first Gulf War who converted to Islam in 1994, said that when his name surfaced on a TSA “no fly” list in April, Colgan Air grounded him and placed him on administrative leave. During Colgan Air’s unsuccessful attempt to resolve the issue with the TSA, the agency told the airline not to allow Scherfen to fly. Colgan eventually scheduled Scherfen for termination on September 1. In a two-sentence letter to the TSA confirming Scherfen’s reinstatement, Colgan Air does not mention a watch list or the reason for his suspension. Neither he nor his wife, Rubina Tareen, who sells Islamic books and other media from their home in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, has a criminal record. Their lawsuit, filed by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, claims that the government placed them under special scrutiny because of their religion.