Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health & Safety

Interesting article here about a group of flight attendants who refused their flight assignment when the in-charge (lead flight attendant) told them that on an earlier flight the pilot had threatened to ditch the airplane into the Atlantic.

An inquiry couldn't find any evidence that the captain had ever threatened such a thing. It's not impossible that the captain threatened such a thing, but it requires less suspension of disbelief if the FA made up the story.

If the captain did threaten to ditch the airplane in the Atlantic during flight, it would either have to be while the first officer was present, or while the FA was alone in the cockpit with the captain while the FO was in the washroom. If the former, why would an FO collaborate with an insane captain to cover up a stated suicide plan? If the latter, what would be a reasonable response by the FA? Remember, he's believing that the person in charge of the aircraft intends to kill everyone on board. To say nothing to anyone who could corroborate the story either during the flight, on landing, or at all until it was time to meet for another flight with the same captain? Wouldn't you ring an emergency code on the call button, radio ATC with the threat, report to company as soon as you were able, enlist the help of your immediate co-workers to restrain the captain, or tell the FO what had transpired as you let him back into the cockpit?

It seems to me more likely that a conflict arose between the authority of the pilot and the authority of the in-charge. The captain is ultimately in charge in such a situation, but some flight attendants try to manage up, and some pilots take that worse than others. It's possible for someone to make a subordinate's life hell without actually transcending workplace regulations, and it's not uncommon for such subordinates to rebel. Maybe the in-charge asked the others to boycott the flight and provided the story. Maybe the in-charge made the others believe the captain really was that loopy. At any rate, I hope Air Canada has a better contingency plan than relying on employees to invoke workplace safety regulations in the event of flight attendants detecting mental instability in pilots.

I approve of workplace solidarity in the face of unacceptable demands. I disapprove of crashing airplanes into the Atlantic.

14 comments:

Bob said...

Yikes! I might be wrong, but I get the impression they're dancing around the primary issues. For starters, how about a full-on investigation including a psych eval of the FA and the pilot? One of the two is lying, and that's a huge problem, if for no other reason than the liar just might be a huge potential safety issue...

Anonymous said...

So just because a FA is ticked off at the pilot for some reason - valid or not - now the pilot's mental health is in question and according to Bob, he should be subjected to psych evaluations beyond the normal medical? NYET! Negatory, Big Ben. I don't agree.

Can you say "lawsuit" for defamation of character, boys and girls?

Of course this is all reported in a news article so we know right off that it's 90% wrong, misleading and inadequately researched.

So, I say, "chill."

Bob said...

Short of assuming this news item is in fact 90% in error, let's say there's enough truth here for us to discuss in hypothetical terms.

Sooo, either the pilot or the FA is lying about something that some people would consider of reasonable importance requiring more than a bureaucratic shrug of the shoulders, according to Anonymous we just sit back and enjoy the flight?

No thanks.

Aviatrix said...

I figure the in-charge and the pilot were in a power struggle such as the FA threatened to doctor or withhold the pilot's food and the pilot responded by saying he could retaliate by crashing the plane into the Atlantic. That is, the pilot could have said it, but not in a way that any reasonable person would interpret as a bona fide threat or marker of mental instability.

dpierce said...

It's also possible that a joking remark was inflated into high drama.

Bob said...

Or a lover's quarrel

Bob said...

One last time,and then I'm done with this (collective sighs of relief):

Or, let’s consider what might have happened if the news reports are indeed 90% incorrect.

Perhaps the in-charge FA, while having drinks after-hours with his close friend the pilot, said to the pilot, “Wow, if I had your job and anything out of the ordinary happened I’m afraid I’d end up ditching us into the Atlantic.” To which the pilot said to his close friend the FA, “Man, there’s no way I’d want your job, either. I’d get so upset I’d probably end up calling in sick.”

Anonymous said...

M Bouchard doesn't sound very reliable, does he? He calls in sick then tells the other crew they're in danger. They can't all call in sick so they can risk their jobs while he looks after number one.

It's statistically likely that M Bouchard is gay and the pilot is not. In theory the captain is boss but the balance of power favours the cabin crew. I've heard the dynamics can get very interesting - also that FOs will turn a blind eye to harassment rather than risk becoming a target of it themselves.

Aluwings said...

Okay - that second anonymous remark is not mine - and I have no idea what anyone's sexual orientation has to do with the issue.

I used "anonymous" (15:08) the first time just because it was faster than signing in. My point is that anyone's pilot licence is in jeapardy often enough from the medicos. If they have reason to suspect my (or any pilot's) sanity, they already have enough power to run us through whatever gamut they choose on a regular basis.

Now, because of unfounded allegations a pilot should be dragged into a psych evaluation?

If that F/A had a case to make he'd have taken it up with his union reps and let them deal with the pilot's union. I'm sure both groups have health and safety boards comprised of very sane and responsible people who would have followed up on this in a reasonable way, without all this brouhaha.

A call for a psych evel makes me crazy! .. oh, wait. D'OH!

Aviatrix said...

It's a tantalizing little not-enough-info story without easy answers.

In defense of anon #2, I think the remark about sexual orientation was intended to rate Bob's idea of a lovers' quarrel as statistically unlikely. The way it is phrased could be interpreted as a suggestion that reliability is related to sexual orientation, but the rest of the comment doesn't, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt there.

A Squared said...

Or it could be an observation that sexual orientation is an underlying source of friction between the two, which doesn't necessarily imply anything negative about the FA.

Aviatrix said...

I never understand that, A Squared. It always seems to me that a man should be happy to have another person around who can contribute to the group, but provide no competition for sexual partners. But the friction is often worse than between two hetero guys.

a said...

Well, can't say that I can explain it other then to observe that the phenomenon probably isn't rooted in objective analysis.

dpierce said...

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