When you are up at 35000 FEET and you know that your life is literally in someone else’s hands, what can be more frightening than a pilot that doesn’t exude the kind of confidence and deportment you would expect? Here are a few stories of midflight misdemeanours by unconventional pilots :
1. A pilot discusses his sex life or lack of it over the intercom
In 2011, a Southwest Airlines pilot told everyone on the airwaves about his lack intercourse, not realising his headset mic was still on.
The deprived aviator was discussing his issues with his co-pilot, denigrating all the flight attendants of not meeting his needs.
He displayed agist, sizeist, homophobic and sexist tendencies during his rant until an Air Traffic Controller is able to break through his ranting to tell him that his mic is still on.
The pilot in question was reprimanded and sent to diversity training. There was no follow up to confirm whether or not his sex life improved after this on air disaster.
2. Fisticuffs between pilot and crew members in full view of passengers.
An Air India flight became a boxing ring after Flight attendant Komal Singh told her male chief flight attendant that the pilot had groped her during the preflight briefing.
The chief flight attendant, also known as a purser, chose to ignore all training and protocols and burst in on the pilot, resulting in blows being thrown.
For 10 minutes the plane was unmanned, to the horror of the 113 passengers on board, while the pilot, co-pilot, purser and Miss Singh had a full blown brawl in the cabin of the aircraft.
An inquiry was done after the fact and both pilot and co-pilot were cleared of sexual harassment. All 4 parties were however, charge sheeted for their bad behaviiour.
3. Pilot’s bathroom break sparks a terrorism scare.
After 9/11, the fear of terrorism can spark some weird incidents. A pilot popped off to the bathroom to relieve himself while leaving the plane in a holding pattern, ready for landing in New York. The door on the bathroom jammed, trapping the pilot inside.
After yelling for help, a passenger started to bang on the cockpit door, attempting to get the attention of the co-pilot in order to assist the inconvenienced pilot.
Due to the passenger’s thick middle Eastern accent, the co-pilot refused to open the cockpit door and notified air traffic control of an emergency situation.
The co-pilot was ordered to execute and emergency landing and was told that arrangements were being made on the ground to handle the situation.
Fortunately the pilot managed to force his way out of his toilet cell and return to the cockpit, negating the emergency situation, but gaining a story that would be told for years afterwards.
4. First Officer takes a nap and wakes up fuzzy headed.
On intercontinental flights it is permissable for co-pilots to take a nap, under the airline rules. In Jan 2011, the first officer onboard a flight from Toronto Canada took a 1 hour nap and woke up to hear the pilot mention that there was a military aircraft in their vicinity.
The sleepyheaded first officer noticed lights, which he assumed was from a plane headed straight for them. He believed these to be from the military aircraft just mentioned and took immediate evasive action. He pushed the control stick forward, causing a 400ft plunge, and tossing passengers like a salad.
The “lights” turned out to be the planet Venus and the sudden drop actually put the plane close to the actual location of the military aircraft, only 1000 feet below.
The muzzy headed misjudgement by the first officer resulted in 16 people being hurt and a $20 million class action lawsuit.
5. Texting while flying can be hazardous to your health.
In May 2010, a Jetstar flight JQ57 was coming in to land at Singapore’s Changi Airport. The pilot and co-pilot on board had more than 17000 hours flight time between them and the landing should have been a sinch.
At around 2000 feet, the pilot inexplicably decided to check his text messages. At around 400 feet the co-pilot figured out that the mobile obsessed pilot had forgotten to lower the landing gear.
The distracted pilot attempted to get the landing gear down last minute, but the plane was only saved by the co-pilot’s quick thinking when he pulled on the side stick to initiate a Missed approach .
The 167 passengers on board were frightened out of their wits. Jetstar subsequently added the lessons learned from this incident into their flight training to avoid similar issues in the future.
6. Co-pilot hits the wrong button.
In September 2011, a Boeing 737-700 flying from Tokyo to Okinawa almost came to a disastrous end. The pilot went to the bathroom and escaped without incident, but on returning to the cockpit, required the co-pilot to hit a door release button in order to let him back in.
The rudder switch was right next to the door release button for some reason, and the co-pilot who had been entirely competent up to this point, hit the wrong button. This sent the plane on a nosedive of over 6000 feet in 30 seconds and flipping almost upside down.
Fortunately the pilot was able to regain control of the plane, let the pilot back in to the cockpit without further incident and with very few passengers suffering any major injury.
7. Letting a kid fly the plane.
Aeroflot Flight 593 from Moscow to Hong Kong, piloted by Yaroslav Kudrinsky in 1994, was a fairly routine flight, which allowed the pilot to spend some quality time with his 12 year old daughter and 15 year old son.
He set the plane on autopilot and allowed his children to pretend to fly the aircraft, which at the time had 75 passengers on board. His daughter played with the control column while Kudrinsky adjusted the auto pilot to make it appear as if she was actually turning the plane. Not to be outdone, his 15 year old son, turned hard on the side stick .
The autopilot is set to disengage when the side stick is turned hard as it assumes an emergency situation. So, suddenly the teenage boy was actually flying the aircraft and set the plane banking towards the earth.
The pilot did not immediately realise the problem until the plane was in a dive. Sadly this story does not end with a rap on the knuckles for the pilot.
The aircraft stalled 3 times and rolled into bank angles exceeding 90 degrees, and was eventually forced into a pull-up exceeding g-force experienced by fighter pilots.
Unfortunately the plane ended up descending at an angle and the left wing struck the ground, causing a fatal crash for all on board the aircraft.