Do three in-air rants in Texan airspace make a trend? In the last year, three airline employees have faced consequences for wildly inappropriate things said abroad aircraft. What is it about Texas that brings out strange and unseemly behavior in our nation’s commercial pilots and flight attendants? (Some unsolicited advice for airline personnel: let’s try to limit the strange things in the air to the wildly cute.) Here’s a recap of the incidents:
1. Amarillo Emergency Landing, March 27, 2012
A JetBlue plane flying from New York to Las Vegas was forced make an emergency landing in Amarillo after one of the pilots allegedly began running down the aisle of the plane and screaming about an imminent plane crash. “Several hours into the flight, passengers said, [the pilot] emerged from the cockpit, walked into the bathroom at the back of the plane, then sprinted up the aisle, screaming ‘Iraq,’ ‘al-Qaida’ and ‘terrorism.’ He tried to re-enter the cockpit, but his security code appeared to have been changed,” the Amarillo Globe-News recounted. Clayton Osbon, 49, is being charged with “interfering with crew-member instructions,” a federal offense, the Christian Scientist Monitor reported. JetBlue blamed the outburst on an unspecified medical condition, though others mused the pilot had a panic attack.
2. American Airlines Flight Held at DFW, March 9, 2012
An American Airlines Plane taxiing away from the gate at DFW was grounded for several hours after a flight attendant began yelling over the plane’s PA system about terrorism, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. “Captain—I am not responsible for crashing this plane,” she said, according to the Dallas Observer. After the flight later got underway with a different crew, the plane turned into something of an open bar in an (apparent) attempt to smooth any ruffled feathers. “The attendants were nicer than I ever seen,” a passenger told the Observer. “They completely ran out of alcohol. … If you said, ‘I want a drink,’ they would just get it for you.” It later emerged that the flight attendant was bipolar and had stopped taking her medication, so the FBI declined to press charges.
3. Southwest Pilot Accidentally Broadcasts Angry Screed, March 25, 2011
Air traffic controllers and other pilots overheard the angry, misogynistic rant of a Southwest Airlines pilot who was flying from Austin to San Diego. The pilot, who railed against the airline’s “unattractive” flight attendants (notably calling them all “gays and grannies and grandes”) thought he he was only speaking over his headset to his co-pilot, but in fact had a much larger audience. The tape, which was leaked to Houston’s KPRC, earned the still-anonymous pilot a suspension from the airline and a Bum Steer from TEXAS MONTHLY that ran with the headline “Your foot is now free to move about your mouth.”
Are we missing any further examples of airline personnel losing their grip in the Texas skies? Send them to [email protected].com with the subject line “Dubious Trend Story.”