Thursday, January 21, 2010

Maybe It's In CAR Subpart 666

I wish I had a navigational record of how mealtime conversation got there, but there it was. Somehow it became sufficiently relevant to the conversation that a member of our party chose to mention, in all seriousness, that there is a law forbidding two devout Christians from flying together as as commander and first officer of an aircraft, in order to avoid having an aircraft be completely unmanned in the event of the Rapture.

Now, I consider myself to have a pretty thorough knowledge of Canadian Air Law. I hold an airline transport licence and have worked in Canadian aviation under part 702, 703 and 704. I have written the dispatch examinations twice and I hold the qualifications required to run a flying school, plus I have taught commercial air law courses. I get a lot of things wrong in my memory, and laws do change without a lot of fanfare, so I don't pretend to know everything. I have at some point read, if not memorized, almost all of the Canadian Air Regulations and something like that would have stood out in my memory more strongly than the Star Trek-ready requirement to obtain permission of the pilot in command before entering an aircraft in flight. There are some sections of the standards down in the 500s that I've never read, as I've never been a PRM, but anything on crew composition would be in part seven. And now I'm citing air law sections now just to avoid having to say what a bizarre law that would be.

I think I managed to remain neutral as I said, "I'm pretty sure that isn't in Canadian law. There is no dispatch requirement for tracking the religion or virtue of crewmembers." I'm pretty sure it isn't in US air law either, as I'm sure one or more of my irreverent American correspondents would have enjoyed watching my virtual eyes pop, right over the Internet after they sent me the link.

I cannot recall ever seeing a religion-related aviation regulation or company policy anywhere, but I'm sure a few exist. I'd be surprised if Air Canada doesn't have uniform policy exceptions for turbans, kippahs and headscarves. I think one British airline bans all religious symbols while in uniform: I remember a kerfuffle about a CSA who was forbidden to wear a small crucifix necklace to work. I would imagine something has been worked out so that when both members of a crew are Islamic they can take turns observing scheduled prayers. It shouldn't be too hard to punch in Mecca on the FMS to get a bearing. But those are practical day-to-day issues, not preparation for the end times.

"Perhaps," I suggested, "It's company policy somewhere."

It's contradictory, though. A company would not find a reason to concoct such a rule unless it was run by very devout Christians. But a company run by Christians who spent any amount of time worrying about unmanned post-Rapture vehicles would not want to--and in any case would not in Canada or the US be allowed to--discriminate against Christian prospective employees. Yet the only ways to implement such a policy would be either to track the Rapture-eligibility of all pilots and schedule promotions and vacations such that a sufficient pool of sinners was on hand at all times for both the left and right seat; or simply to restrict pilot hiring to sinners only.

And then you get to the issue of why would the company care? Any passengers or bystanders on the ground who were not also swept up in the Rapture would be damned to hell in any case, what difference would being killed in a plane crash make? My experience may be non-representative, but I lived and worked with some very kind, compassionate and intelligent Christians who in prayer affirming their allegiance to Jesus Christ finished with "and anyone who believes otherwise can go to hell," so I can't see them being sufficiently concerned with the manner of death of the non-chosen as to make regulations ensuring it wasn't airplane-related.

Somehow everyone avoided the obvious reason as to why such a law wasn't an issue, so I'll leave it as a straight line for you commenters.


Chris Thompson said...

Oh yes. I have heard this one so many times too. Sometimes it is attributed as a Delta Airlines policy. It is not.

Snopes provides evidence that this is, truly bizarre, stuff of urban legends.

Aviatrix said...

Thanks Chris. I'm glad it wasn't just something this guy hallucinated.

Mark said...

I would be pleased if the flight deck were rid of crews who would resort to prayer rather than keeping their wits, the airplane's attitude, and their checklists in order.

Captain Sullenberger, interviewed by CBS, was asked the ridiculous question, "did you pray?", while USA 1549 headed for the Hudson. He was more diplomatic than I would have been when he replied similar to this: "I'll leave that for the people in the back".

The fact that his first thought was not to engage in nonsense or allow fear to overtake his skill (plus luck) is what saved him and all on board.

There is a new "rapture" date set: 21 May 2011. The last one, 28 October, 1992, was proclaimed -- irony -- via printing posters on shall we say rather durable stock. Many of these have withstood the test of many many years and remain in place, on light stands and all the usual places where nutcases post such stuff, announcing that the date has long since passes and no one has gone poof.

Which accounts for the continued decline of US politics and society in general.


Aluwings said...

There have never been a shortage of people claiming silly things in the name of God - to the chagrin of other members of the "tribe."

One of the silliest tales involving pilots and this fantasy called the Rapture is a series of poorly-written (but very lucrative) books and worse movies called The Left Behind Series.

It is fitting that these should be of such poor quality because the theology itself is shoddy and does not represent the beliefs of most Christians.

Personally I put all this under the same heading as the recent blatherings of Pat Robertson. Of whom Rex Murphy, that great CBC commentator recently wrote:

"He, Robertson, fulfills every agitated secularist’s caricature of a “dedicated” Christian. If Pat Robertson didn’t exist, Richard Dawkins (with a little midwifery from Christopher Hitchens) would have to give birth to him."

Read more

jinksto said...

The answer to your question is simple really. After the Rapture the unsaved remain and the "man of lies" a.k.a. Satan will rise up to lead the world for seven years before the Tribulation. Airline directors are simply trying to avoid lawsuits during that seven years.

Also, apologies for the following correction. :)

Interesting logic. One could argue that the continued decline of US politics and society in general is in lockstep with the decline of Christianity, not the other way around.

The 1992 rapture was created by a Korean sect and in no way represented the "views" of Christianity as a whole.

Likewise the 2011 date was created by a talk radio prophet and has no foundation in Christianity.

In fact, the Bible is explicit regarding the fact that the date will not be known ahead of time and says in Mathew 24:36, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Which to the faithful gives lie to the fact that any man CAN know. There is no secret message coded into the bible for people to decipher. Since no one will know there's no one to tell and if there's no one to tell there's no point in encoding the message.

You've done no research on this and yet are more than happy to go on for five paragraphs attacking a faith believed to be true by three quarters of the US population (ARIS 2008)

I would suggest that your ignorant generalizations and intolerance are far more likely to account "for the continued decline of US politics and society in general."

Echojuliet said...

Humorous post. Congratulations on writing on a touchy subject in a way that wouldn't offend most reasonable people. Thank you for your gracefulness :)

John said...

Left unsaid is that the odds of finding two rapture worthy pilots in any one aircraft probably exceed all current computational capacities.


Cirrocumulus said...

"the Star Trek-ready requirement to obtain permission of the pilot in command before entering an aircraft in flight" - wonderful. If I'm ever winched off anything by a Canadian rescue helicopter I'll try to remember to ask for permission to come aboard!

Aviatrix said...

Thank you John. I knew someone would provide it.

Echojuliet, I have to confess to concentrating so hard on being respectful towards the person who thought this was a real air regulation that I completely forgot that the topic as well as the existence of the regulation was controversial. The Rapture is as exotic to me as reincarnation or piercing your skin for a sun dance.

Cirrocumulus, yes, preferably with a [Vulcan?] salute. "Permission to come aboard, Captain!"

Sarah said...

Ah yes, there is nothing else quite so exotic to me as the religious beliefs and customs of others. Apparently some flight crews find it so as well.

I'm not making fun, if you're not familiar it could look threatening.

Aviatrix said...

That, Sarah, is a pretty good argument for broad religious education in schools. Not instruction on whom or how to worship, just information on how the people of the world worship, what are their highest truths, and the opportunity to ask some questions. I'm under no illusion that increasing understanding will decrease prejudice, but if you're going to hate Muslims you should at least have enough information to avoid beating up Sikhs.

Dafydd said...

Sarah - To anyone unfamiliar it would appear bizarre - no question . And bizarre conduct in an aircraft is unwelcome - very .
The flight crew responded appropriately . Individuals should not presume that the privilege of tolerance will automatically be extended them in unusual situations . Being a passenger in an aircraft is a highly unusual situation and it behoves everyone to adopt the utmost discretion - constantly .

Sarah said...

Aviatrix - why yes, Muslim-hating beaters should be careful attacking Sikhs. They may be carrying a kirpan... ideally, not onto an airplane.

I don't disagree, Dayfydd. Cabin crew can't know everything, and it definitely better to be safe than sorry.

This mistake is like the shutdown of the Minneapolis airport for hours recently... because a bomb-sniffing dog alerted on a suitcase. As it happened, the suitcase was the airline's "last bag" indicator, and it is unknown if it has some funky history or other reason for smelling bad.

Aviatrix said...

Maybe the dog was getting suspicious that that same bag kept coming off every flight.

Grant said...

Maybe it's the same bag they used for training the dog by stuffing if full of drugs?

ElEmEnOhPee said...

@Mark re: "I would be pleased if the flight deck were rid of crews who would resort to prayer rather than keeping their wits, the airplane's attitude, and their checklists in order."

What do you suppose praying folks flying airplanes pray for? Perhaps for: "...keeping their wits, the airplane's attitude, and their checklists in order." ?

Curt Sampson said...

It rather blows my mind that someone would consider a situation in which more than three million people find themselves every day to be "unusual."