Posts Tagged ‘airline law’

AIRLINE CONTINGENCIES

Monday, May 1st, 2017

[Note 1: The author is a pilot with a commercial license and multi-engine and instrument ratings. He has flown numerous types of aircraft, single and twin-engined, from Piper Cub to Cessna 150 to Cessna 210 to Cessna 310 to Piper Seneca to Beechcraft p-Baron to Beechcraft Duke.]

Fictional Anecdote 1
“Sir, please take your seat. The Captain has asked everyone to take their (sic) seat. The ‘fasten seat-belt sign’ is on.”

“Hey, I’m just changing my seat for that empty one next to the window across the aisle.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but we’re experiencing some turbulence, and it could get worse without warning.”

Another male passenger shouts, “Let the guy change seats. What is this . . . a concentration-camp? We’re the customers. We’re not prisoners. The customer is always right. Come on, folks, let’s take a vote.”

“Sir, please take your seat.”

From a loudspeaker, “This is your Captain. Everyone, please be seated with your seatbelts fastened.”

“Sir, I’m ordering you to take your seat.”

“What’re you gonna do? Beat me up? Look, I’m sorry, but it’ll just take a second. Besides, there is no bad weather. Look out the window. The sun is shining.”

“Sir, sit down! That’s an order.”

With those words unheeded, the recalcitrant passenger begins a dash across the aisle to the adjoining row. As he is about to enter it, the aircraft encounters turbulence — extreme turbulence — clear-air turbulence.

It plunges downward hundreds of feet then upward hundreds of feet. Passengers scream. The airliner momentarily is out of control. Violence ends as quickly as it had begun. Meanwhile, the recalcitrant passenger became a human missile, flying through the air, bouncing off other passengers, then landing atop a toddler.

“Mommy, I’m hurt! I’m hurt!”

The mother becomes hysterical, screaming at the man, “What have you done to my baby?”

He cannot hear her. Lying sprawled atop the screaming child, his unblinking gaze fixed at the ceiling, he never will hear anything again. His neck is broken. The child never will walk again. Her spine is severed below the neck. Let passengers rule?

Fictional Anecdote 2
An airliner taxies towards its assigned runway. A young woman in her twenties arises from her assigned seat. A steward leaves his to rush towards her.

Approaching, he surveys the woman — skinny with stringy, multi-colored hair and a multitude of tattoos covering her neck, arms, and legs. Through her left nostril, she sports a metallic object in the form of an arrow with a sharp point facing outwards.

He comments silently, “Man, that thing could make a helluva weapon.”

They meet. The steward detects the odor of alcohol reeking from twixt reechy lips covered with purple paint.

[Note: Alcohol acts as a diuretic.]

“Miss, please return to your seat.”

“I have to pee, and I mean right now.”

A female passenger yells, “Let the girl pee.” Some other women agree, reflecting the new age in commercial aviation.

“Miss, please,” the steward pleads, “we’re heading toward the active runway, and we’ve been cleared by the Tower for departure. You must return to your seat.”

“No way! Let me pass. Have me arrested later for having a pee. Fat chance of that, Big Time! I watch televison, you know.”

As she spits her last words into his face, a fueling truck on a cross-taxiway darts in front of the lumbering airliner nimble in flight, ungainly on the ground. The co-pilot at the controls slams his feet down on the braking pedals. The aircraft lurches to a sudden halt.

The steward grabs seat-backs across the aisle from one another. One hand slips. He plunges forward as the recalcitrant passenger begins tumbling backwards. His head strikes her bony chest, pushing her to the right and spinning her around. She falls heavily into the lap of a male passenger holding in his arms an infant. Her nasal arrow pierces the infant’s eye. The baby howls in agony.

Horrified, the enraged father pushes the bewildered woman off him, hands the howling baby to his wife, then attacks the woman now sprawled across the aisle. Throttling the wretch, he seems intent on killing her.

Two stewardesses rush to her aid. The man swats them away like flies. The injured steward and two other, male passengers pull him off. They wrestle him to the floor.

After a conversing via the inter-com with the steward and receiving clearance from Ground Control to return to the gate, the Pilot-in-Command, shaking his head, says to his colleague, “No more! This fly-boy is getting a job hauling freight.”

The airliner arrives at the gate. An ambulance rushes the injured infant to a local hospital. The police arrest both the young woman and the father.

Days later, an ophthalmologist, now labeled a “healthcare provider,” pronounces the infant’s eye blinded. The parents file suit against the airline for willfully failing to control the passenger.

A prosecutor exonerates the young woman, characterizing the blinding an accident. She files a lawsuit against the airline. The airline settles promptly. Its CEO publishes a personal, public apology to her.

The prosecutor charges the father with assault to commit murder. He pleads “temporary insanity”. The court judges him innocent by virtue thereof and orders him to see a “therapist” to gain “anger control”. After paying his lawyer’s bills, he declares bankruptcy. Let passengers rule?

Actual Incident 1
One sunny afternoon with puffy, white clouds dotting the sky, having departed from Honolulu International Airport in a Cessna 172 for a sightseeing flight around Oahu, a passenger and the author approach Kaena Point. The passenger is carrying a camera ensconced in a hard-shelled case. Without warning, the aircraft encounters turbulence — extreme turbulence — clear-air turbulence. It plunges downwards. The pilot’s hands fly upwards off the yoke. His feet lift off the rudder-pedals. The camera strikes the roof of the cabin. The aircraft is out of control. Violence ends as quickly as it had begun only to recur once more.

Upon returning to the airport with winds now gusting to 35 knots, he lands the aircraft intact. His passenger lifts the camera. Its hard-shelled case is cracked open from the blow received. Were it not for their seat-belts, passenger and, worse, pilot would have been knocked unconscious. Such is the power of Nature.

Actual Incident 2
A passenger on an airliner still sitting at the gate is requested to deplane by personnel from the airline. He refuses. He is directed to deplane. Again, he refuses. He becomes hostile. The personnel call the police.

After trying to convince him to depart, the police forcibly remove him from the aircraft. Unauthorized, he reënters.

When police try to remove him again, he attacks them physically. They drag him from the aircraft, bleeding.

Other passengers? They side with the recalcitrant passenger.

Later, the American public largely sides with passenger. Big Media of both The Left and The Right side with him. Given the ruckus from the public, police nationally, already under fire from Big Media and The Left, refuse to intervene further in such incidents.

Who is the man? A physician who graduated medical school not in these United States of America but from the University of Medicine of Ho Chi Minh City, a city previously known as Hanoi, located in that which previously was North Vietnam. Recall the North Vietnamese? They’re the folk who killed 58,000 American soldiers not so long ago and tortured hundreds others as Prisoners of War at places like the “Hanoi Hilton”, the Geneva Convention be damned!

How did this Vietnamese immigrant express his gratitude for being allowed to live and work in these United States of America? He became a felon convicted of trading narcotics prescriptions and cash for homosexual favors in motels. He became a habitual gambler for high stakes. His gratitude extended to his medical license being suspended in 2003, following his being arrested on charges including unlawful prescribing and trafficking in a controlled substance. At the hospital at which he held privileges, he became the subject of numerous complaints. He developed a history of impulsive, explosive behavior.

This is the man who unilaterally assumed authority on an airliner. This is the man with whom other passengers sided. This is the man with whom the American public sides. Let passengers rule?

Unsurprisingly, anyone who states these facts is branded a “racist”, especially by The Left and becomes subject to all the social abuse that that questionable term unleashes upon those so labelled. As in Canada, the truth is no defense. Western civilization, where goest thou?

The antecedent occasioning personnel to request the man’s deplaning? “Over-booking” with the reässigning of seats to other personnel from the airline.

PART TWO

Issue
At issue is not the policy of the airline. Perhaps, the policy was ill advised. A case can be made otherwise. Whatever the case, legally a reservation does not guarantee a seat on a particular flight, merely transportation from Point A to Point B. Flights change frequently as a function of mechanical problems and meteorology beyond the control of the airline.

So, what is the issue? The primary issue in Incident 2 is that a passenger on an airliner received a directive from authorized airline personnel. He resisted the directive and, thereby, interfered with the normal operation of the aircraft by the crew. Even that he subsequently became violent is secondary.

Booking policy notwithstanding, an aircraft is not a bus that can be stopped at the roadside to resolve problems. An aircraft is a delicate machine that operates in an unforgiving environment. The worst airliner mishap in history occurred on the ground.

What if an airliner is in the air in an emergent situation? Diverting the pilots’ attention from flying the aircraft to policing recalcitrant passengers endangers the aircraft, it passengers, and its crew. Potential consequence? People die. Rule by passengers?

The ultimate authority in the operation of an airliner is the operator, the airline. In turn, it designates an appropriately licensed pilot (Airline Transport Pilot) with a current medical certificate as the Pilot-in-Command (PiC). Once the doors close, the PiC has total authority and responsibility. The PiC is just that which the title denotes — in command.

Technically while at the gate with the door open, the operator of the airliner or designee retains authority. The aircraft is the property of the operator, the airline. As owner, the operator possesses the legal right to remove passengers. If you allow someone into your home then he refuses to leave when requested, have you no recourse?

FAR 135.120 Prohibition on interference with crewmembers: No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.

A passenger legitimately may disagree with policy. Once aboard, however, a passenger may not refuse a directive of the operator, the PiC, or a designee. By refusing to comply with a directive, a passenger is interfering with crewmembers in the operation of the aircraft.

Once the door closes, the PiC of an aircraft is just that which the title denotes — in command of any and all operations of the aircraft, including an aircraft on the ground. An aircraft is not a democracy. Passengers do not rule; they have no say. When a passenger boards an aircraft, he is under the authority of the operator and the operator’s designee, the PiC.

trespass vb.: to go or intrude on the property, privacy, or preserves of another with no right or permission.

When the recalcitrant passenger reëntered the airliner again without permission, he became guilty of a second offense — trespass. The recalcitrant, assaultive, trespassing passenger was in the wrong on two counts and, thereby, subject to both criminal prosecution and civil tort.

Some have raised the ridiculous argument that, under this doctrine of operators and pilots’ authority, airline personnel could issue a completely inappropriate, if not illegal, directive such as to undress. Argument ad absurdum! It never has occurred. It never will occur. Other personnel would countermand it immediately.

So, afterwards what actually did occur? What did the perpetrator do?

He did that which many Americans would do. He claimed that he was the victim. He found a lawyer, or a lawyer found him, and they filed a lawsuit.

Rather than being castigated as a perpetrator and serving time in jail as punishment for his misbehavior and rather than facing a civil action by the airline for trespass, he became celebrated and pitied as a victim, and he sued the airline, reaping a sizable reward in a settlement. Likely, had he not settled, at trial he would have received a sizable reward from a jury ensconced in a courtroom housed in a building versus dependent upon an airliner at 35,000 feet surrounded by a thin tube of aluminum — a jury safe and sympathetic to his cause. Justice or mob-rule?

Could this encounter and its aftermath serve as a model for other passengers? It already has.

Another airline just suspended a male employee as a consequence of his arguing with a passenger when she demanded to bring aboard her child’s stroller. Then, another passenger, a male, threatened to assault physically the flight-attendant. Both passengers were given “psychotherapy” on the spot and relented. The incident was recorded, as usual, on someone’s so-called smart-phone and went “viral”. Passengers rule.

[Note: An assault is a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and may result in either criminal or civil liability.]

PART THREE

Consider the following question: Of the more than two-million passengers flying every day, what percentage are mentally deranged? At any given moment, one-percent of the population is actively psychotic suffering delusions and hallucinations. Such people are five times more likely to become violent than the average person. Estimate that only one-tenth of one-percent of the one-percentage is a passenger on an airliner on any given day. The result is that minimally twenty passengers aboard airliners daily are actively deranged and dangerous. That number does not include a multitude under the influence of mind-altering drugs, probably numbering in the thousands. Reality!

A directive is a directive. It is not the occasion for psychotherapy as happened in the latter instance with the argumentative, hostile mother and her assaultive sympathizer.

What will be the long-term consequences of these incidents? Better service? Fine but at what cost? More such incidents? More such lawsuits? Deaths? Ultimately, the reality of context and consequences will rule.

Controlling Variable
So, the American public largely sides with recalcitrant passengers violating laws and jeopardizing safety. What’s the controlling variable?

In the context of being a passenger, actual or potential, the general public is operating vicariously under the same contingencies as though they were the passengers in question. In that context, all have common variables controlling their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the jargon of psychoanalytic theory, the controlling variable is “identification” — the public “identifies” with the offenders.

[Note: The term, “identification”, may be a handy shorthand, but it offers no scientific explanation.]

Meanwhile, operators and flight-crews operate under a different and occasionally conflicting set of controlling variables. Aboard an aircraft, which set of variables should take precedence? Who should rule? Operator and PiC or passengers?

Given the public outcry, operators and police are bending to a media-orchestrated public outcry. The at-risk operator of the airline in question even groveled repeatedly before posturing politicians sitting safely in Congress and an outraged public sitting safely at home or at work.

Now, no police will intervene except in cases of safety and security? Oh? Who determines safety and security at any particular moment? What are the criteria? Who makes the decision on the spot and at the moment? Politicians? Lawyers? Perhaps, passengers deciding by vote.

What will be the consequence of withdrawing policing enforcement? Anarchy? Anarchy on an airliner? Anarchy on an airliner in flight? Consider an even more recent brawl between two male passengers aboard a third airline. Flight-crews are not capable of enforcing directives without the contingency of support from the police and the courts, nor should they be.

Now, consider the recent riots on academic campuses where students rule over cowering administrators, and police do nothing — the University of California at Berkeley and Middlebury College, for example. Mob-rule!

The trend will not last because it cannot last. In the end, the reality of context and consequences rule — not passengers on airliners or students on campuses. Forget not that anarchy always is followed by tyranny.

Visit Inescapable Consequences.

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