Pilots Behaving Badly

Posted Feb 11th 2011 02:30 PMUpdated Feb 16th 2011 03:12 PM


Pilots Behaving Badly


Their job is one of the most important in public transportation, but pilots are human like the rest of us -- and prone to making some pretty stupid decisions both in-flight and off-duty.

From the two Northwest pilots who overshot their destination by more than 150 miles after getting distracted by their laptops to the Air India pilots who took a cockpit brawl with the crew into the cabin for all the passengers to hear, read on for some of the most appalling incidents of pilots behaving badly.

1. Air Tran Pilot Arrested after TSA altercation
Security screening can be frustrating, even for seasoned pilots. The arrest of AirTran captain Michael Wayne Karnath, which was put into motion by the TSA, apparently came on the heels of a "clash of personalities" (according to the airport's executive director) that the pilot had with a screener at a security checkpoint. The female screener at Newport News/Willamsburg International Airport in Virginia reportedly accused Karnath of squeezing her hand tightly and shoving it away when she tried to reposition his belongings on the screening tray. Passengers were delayed for three hours while the airline found a replacement pilot. He was later charged with assault and battery and eventually fined just $100.

2. British Airways Pilot Charged with Wealthy Wife's Murder
British Airways pilot Robert Brown was charged with murder in 2010 after the body of his estranged -- and very wealthy -- wife was found near her home in Windsor Great Park. The couple, who had two children together, were in the final throes of a divorce settlement when Joanna Brown went missing from her mansion. The pair were married for 11 years, but Joanna, the daughter of a rich property developer, was said to have been fearful of losing part of her family fortune when they began the divorce settlement three years prior to her murder. She was allegedly killed by a severe blow to the head.

3. Delta Pilot Arrested for Carrying a Concealed Weapon
Clueless -- and not so clueless -- passengers have tried to go through security with weapons on their person, but you'd expect more from a pilot. Matthew McDaniel, an off-duty Delta Air Lines pilot, was arrested in May 2010 when TSA employees noticed a loaded .38 special handgun tucked into his carryon luggage during the x-ray screening process at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. According to reports, McDaniel, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, said that he had borrowed his girlfriend's bag and forgotten to take the gun out of it when he cleaned it out.

4. Air India Pilots get in In-Flight Brawl with Crew at 30,000 feet
In 2009, an Air India flight bound from the United Arab Emirates to Delhi erupted into chaos somewhere over Pakistan when an argument between two pilots and two crewmembers spilled from the cockpit into the main cabin. According to reports from the cabin crew, the pilots had sexually harassed a female flight attendant, who later filed a claim. Counter-claims by the pilots, however, said that the sexual harassment claim was a ploy to divert attention from accusations of misconduct that had been brought against a male crewmember. Things had gotten ugly in-flight and the cockpit was left unmanned while the airline employees became physically and verbally abusive with each other in full view of passengers. Police reports later confirmed that the female flight attendant had been assaulted and a case was brought against the pilots.

5. Frisky Encounter Between a Pilot and Flight Attendant Leads to Arrest
A pilot and flight attendant for Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines, who turned a layover into a frisky foray in the woods, got more than they bargained for in 2008 when they got lost -- and then found -- in the most awkward of ways. During a layover at Harrisburg International Airport, Jeffrey Paul Bradford and Adrianna Connor apparently had dinner at a nearby diner and imbibed heartily before heading into the wild for a liaison. At some point, the pair got separated in the woods. And when a clothes-less Bradford (according to reports, he was wearing just his wristwatch and flip flops) approached a passerby to ask for shorts to wear, she called 911, and a thermal-imaging helicopter was used to search the woods. The pilot was charged with disorderly conduct and indecent exposure (among other things) and both he and Connor were suspended from duty with the airline pending an investigation.

6. Drunken United Airlines Pilot Arrested at London's Heathrow Airport
United Airlines pilot Erwin Vermont Washington was three times over the legal limit when Scotland Yard police arrested him in 2009 at London's Heathrow Airport. All passengers were onboard Washington's Chicago-bound flight and it was ready for departure when a crewmember, who had apparently smelled alcohol on the pilot's breath, reported Washington to authorities. The boozed up breathalyzer analysis showed the pilot to have 31 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath (the legal limit for a pilot to fly is just 9 micrograms). There were reports that Washington had locked himself in the cockpit for an hour while the police tried to persuade him to come out. He was removed from duty by the airline and confronted with the possibility of a two-year jail sentence and fine.

7. Fake Swedish Pilot Arrested at Amsterdam Airport
Fake plastic surgeons are scary enough -- but fake pilots? Sweden native Thomas Salme, who held an expired commercial pilot's license but not a license to pilot passenger flights, flew passenger jets without an official license for 13 year before getting busted. He was caught in 2009 at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and taken into custody directly from the cockpit of a Turkish-carrier Corendon Airlines flight that was minutes from takeoff. According to reports in a German magazine, Salme had forged his own Swedish flying permit and trained on a flight simulator while working as a maintenance engineer at Scandinavian Airlines. A tipoff from someone in Sweden led to Salme's arrest.

8. Ryanair Pilot Attempts to Bite Police Officer Following Arrest
He may have been off duty at the time, but a Ryanair pilot certainly did not put his company's best colors forward when he attempted to bite a Dublin police officer after being taken into custody for throwing a traffic barrier into the street in October 2009. The pilot, Patrick Taaffe, who was allegedly drunk at the time, became verbally abusive with officers at the scene of the event. He was brought into custody, and while being searched by a police officer at the station, the newly trained pilot apparently tried to bite the officer's hand. The pilot was arrested a second time just a few weeks later after failing to pay a taxi fare and assailing the driver with verbal abuse.

9. Northwest Airlines Pilots Get Distracted by Laptops, Overshoot their Destination
Anyone who's ever gone off on a Google tangent knows how easy it is to get distracted by a computer. But you'd like to think the pilots flying your plane would have more self-control. In 2009, two Northwest pilots -- Captain Timothy Cheney and Co-pilot Richard Cole -- were flying 144 passenger from San Diego to Minneapolis when they overshot the airport by some 150 miles. The reason? They apparently lost track of time while checking out a new pilot scheduling program on their laptops. Operating laptops in cockpits was against Northwest's rules, as well as the policies of most airlines. The pilots missed repeated calls from Air Traffic Control over the span of more than an hour and only realized they were no longer bound for Minneapolis when a flight attendant called them from the cabin five minutes before the flight was supposed to land. The pilots turned the plane around over Wisconsin and later landed safely -- but more than an hour late -- in Minneapolis. The FAA revoked the pilots' licenses.

10. United Airlines Pilot Charged with Running Drugs
A San Francisco-based pilot with United Airlines appears to have been moonlighting as a different kind of flying man altogether. James Hathaway was arrested in August 2010 after piloting a private plane loaded with 173 pounds of marijuana to a rural runway in North Carolina. The plane landed in the middle of the night at the Shelby-Cleveland County Regional Airport, but deputies and local police were awaiting its arrival. The pilot and his two passengers were immediately surrounded and brought into custody. Hathaway's attempted delivery using the 1978 Aerostar plane was apparently worth roughly $200,000. The plane was confiscated by U.S. Customs Enforcement, and Hathaway faces drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Filed Under: Air Travel, Weird, Best Of

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March 11 2011 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was a fighter pilot for 23 years and an airline pilot for 14. Been there; done that.

February 23 2011 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


YOU MUST BE A TOTAL IDIOT! I've had my ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) I have been a pilot for 25 years, and 15 of those past years I moved up in rank to Captain, Officer in Command. 99.99% of pilots do NOT DRINK or take ILLEGAL DRUGS.
So, YES, before you make any assumptions, do yourself a big huge favor, do a little research on the topic in which your replying to so you don't make yourself look uneducated. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) does extensive background checks for people who are in the Aviation field.
Since you gave me a really good laugh, I thought I'd give you a free mini course on aviation.

February 20 2011 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One reason I will NEVER FLY SPIRIT AIRLINES is the outrageous behavior by the entire flight crew in protecting the pilot at a security checkpoint. This happened at termminal "A" at Washington Reagan. The pilot was disheveled and uncooperative, he failed three times to get through the metal detector and was eventually taken aside hand searched by TSA agents.
In complaining to TSA, I recieved no action. In complaining to the crew and requesting the name of the pilot, I was met with rude comments, attempts to hide the identity of the ariline, and an attempt at physical intimidation by the co-pilot. After I got at least the name of the airline off the co-pilot's badge (though no one was wearing a name tag) I was later stopped by an Air Marshall who was on the flight (and obiously a friend of the crew) and threatened with being written up in a secret traveler information database as a threat to security. Had I known where to go I would have made an immediate complaint about the whole incident, which I am sure was on camera. As far as I am concerned the crew was protecting the disheveled Spirit Airlines pilot who appreared to have been drinking and hung over, and who was behaving in a disrespectful manner to the other passengers and TSA. I guess that adds a whole new twist to the name "Spirit" Airlines, huh ?

February 20 2011 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John's comment

y would u complain. stay out of it and mind your business

April 14 2011 at 2:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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Lol.....so kidding. They stupid morons, in EVERY article it's there! You would like to THINK AOL would be starting to figure out a way to monitor and get rid of stupid "comments" like that.

February 20 2011 at 4:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do not like to fly in the air plain. It is not safe. I live close to New York City. When I go to Florida, I drove down with my car many times and I feel more safe in my car than in the air plain. Many polits drinks and take drugs and it is not safe. Onec a person become a polits, they do not thing about safety. The airlines should have a very strick background checks before they hire any polit. I hope I never fly again.

February 20 2011 at 12:21 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Yes's comment

lololol...you live close to NYC, where? Puerto Rico??? Well, no you can't drive there, so you go to Florida, and hang out on Caille Ocho in Miami?? Whatever, it doesn't sound like you speak English too much, but then again there are a lot of you in this country right now who don't want to learn it. BTW, it's AIRPLANE, and PILOT, and STRICT. When I fly, I usually order a drink, so I don't have to deal with the follies of the flight. I think many of the posters here are sitting writing with a bottle of something next to them, because some of these posts have been hilarious. So, to all of you, and you, "Yes", thanks for the laughs. lolololol

February 20 2011 at 4:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

dude u are clueless. the airlines Do have strick background checks on pilots first of all. secondly, many pilots drink and do drugs?? where r u getting your facts from. state your sources. Do u know many pilots that drink and do drugs???? probably not and if you do, why do you know pilots that drink and do drugs???? Pilots do care about safety if not you would not have been alive to write this bull **** as opinion. Did u land safely??? i think so. ya know i think yo are just pissed that we have the worlds most sought after job and you work in someones garden. poor baby. u dont like flying then walk, bike, drive, or take a train idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 14 2011 at 2:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
R. L. Wadsworth

how about the crew that blew the flaps off one wjng during the 1970!s over Detroit, alledgely attempting to improve fuel efficiency.

February 19 2011 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had no idea that God spoke English.

Dude, put down the challis.You've been over-endulging in the blood of your Lord.

BTW - My gods love me.

February 19 2011 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like the retired Delta captain (DD) is having
trouble with his Alzheimer's or perhaps he was never
a real pilot. Every pilot I know can spell correctly
and write coherently.

February 19 2011 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
norm tucker

Who the hell let that bible thumping maniac in here? What does "Christian" and "flying" have in common numb nuts?

Hey, most of us who fly came from the military and we're a bunch of hard hitting, hard flying, hard partying, seat of the pants, kick ass, flyers who like to have a good time and fly below the tree line whenever possible - if you don't like it, don't fly!

February 19 2011 at 8:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply