It is hardly a surprise to hear that ALPA, the union representing the pilots that overflew Minneapolis last week on a flight from San Diego, has issued a release defending the pilots. After all, that is one of the main roles that the union serves. What is (mildly) surprising, however, is just how bad the release is.
For starters, they say this:
"To date, all crew statements related to this case have been voluntary," said Lee Moak, chairman of the Delta branch. "We are disappointed that these voluntary statements are being used without regard for the breach of trust and confidence their use will cause." Taking disciplinary action against the crew, Moak said, could cause pilots to question the integrity of voluntary safety programs. "The continued viability of these programs themselves will be placed at risk. That will, in turn, cause irreparable harm to the safety of our nation’s aviation system," Moak said.
OK…the statements made were voluntary. But they’re still pretty damning.
"In any aircraft incident, there is always more to the story than first appears in the press," he added. "We do not condone the abandonment of due process that will result from a rush to judgment; instead we implore all interested parties to move with deliberate and unemotional professionalism as the events surrounding this incident are investigated." At no time during the incident were the passengers, crew or aircraft in danger, the union said.
The facts that can be seen thus far are that the pilots stopped paying attention to ATC and to their route. Even without knowing what they were actually doing in the cockpit, we know that they were not actually paying attention the way they are supposed to. Otherwise they wouldn’t have missed the airport. It is quite hard to believe that the plane was never in any danger. After all, if they aren’t paying enough attention to know where they are how can we believe that they are paying attention to other things, like fuel gauges or other alert systems? Maybe there is more to the situation than first reported. But when final approach looks like this the pilots definitely did something wrong.
Seriously, these guys screwed up. I don’t really care why so much. They made a huge mistake and did, in some ways, put the safety of their passengers at risk. That is inexcusable. I don’t expect the union to stand by silently while their members are under attack, but they should avoid pretending that everything that happened was acceptable. It was far from it.
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