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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Captain Subdued After Erratic Behavior

One of the questions in Flight For Control is:

"How far can you push a pilot before he breaks?"

"Tony Antolino, a 40-year-old executive for a security firm, said the captain walked to the back of the plane, seemed disoriented and agitated, then began yelling about an unspecified threat linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They're going to take us down, they're taking us down, they're going to take us down. Say the Lord's Prayer, say the Lord's Prayer," the captain screamed, Antolino said."

USA Today

Nobody wants to believe that pilots are just people with emotional, and physical problems like the rest of the earthbound people. We are supposed to be better. Unfortunately the stress we work under and the fatigue we operate in can take hold with pilots, just as it can with anyone.

What you're about to read is frightening. The Captain of a Jet Blue flight became emotionally unstable, and the First Officer saved the flight. Thanks to the quick and decisive actions of the first officer who locked this crazed captain out of the flight deck, and the passengers who took action to subdue him, this flight ended happily. What would have happened if he hadn't locked him out?

Before you read the following article, please note that there are a few statements that are not necessarily true. Learning to restrain a passenger is not a required part of CRM training. And if it had been offered...then the pilot needing restraint would know what to anticipate, which could create a challenge in the process.

Second ~ The only training on how to assess the mental stability of people I've ever experienced was during my MHS education. If any pilot has experienced this type of training at their airline, please let me know. That airline needs to be congratulated. But the reality is, we are trained to fly planes, not become psychiatrists.

The truth in this matter is better stated by Aviation Expert, Michal Barr...

"There aren't any good procedures in place if a pilot has a meltdown in the cockpit and the cockpit door is closed, even after the 1999 crash of an EgyptAir flight, in which the pilot appeared to have intentionally crashed the plane. Even after EgyptAir there really wasn't a great new procedure. What can you do? The first officer or the captain is going crazy and then you end up with a battle on the flight deck between the two of them and that's not a good thing,"

To read the full article by Bart Jansen, click here: USA Today

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  1. Truly terrifying. Thank goodness this incident turned out like it did! Will airlines be able to learn and improve conditions from this? It's apparently not an isolated incident (Egyptair).

    1. I hope conditions improve. Thank goodness the pilot's personality is strong, and we can deal with the highest levels of stress. But stress long term is not good for anyone. Especially pilots.

  2. I say look for the dead cat... and call kathryn..

    1. That's really funny. And a good idea. Kathryn can figure this out!

  3. Scary things happen for a reason. A real wake-up call, I hope, for the Feds...

    Like you said; We need some sort of training to make pilots aware of their boundaries. How far each individual pilot can be pushed.

    1. This is a huge wake-up call. There are tests that can determine how much stress a person is under, as well as how much stress they can handle. That may be what they need to do.

  4. After reading your book and comparing it to the similarities of the Jet Blue captain who went berserk, the FAA may want to hire you as their new "pilot whisperer" since you seem to have an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the pilot mind.
    As you noted, meltdown is only a matter of time when the stress levels are high enough for any person, professional or not, military or civilian, to lose it and hurt someone or one's self. Thanks for bringing it into our consciousness for only then can we alter the road to tragedy. Dr Larry

    1. Dr. Larry, Thank you for the comment. It is only a matter of time... not if but when, for some. A few weeks ago it was a Flight Attendant. Yesterday a pilot. Who will be next? Hopefully with awareness we can divert a tragedy.

  5. To go along with what Dr. Larry stated, perhaps the FAA could use someone like you to guide them in this area. The timing of this is so ironic it's downright scary. The novel, these events.. The first thing that came that came out of my mouth when I read the newsflash was: Flight For Control. Thank you for publishing this.

    1. Jeremy, thank you so much. It is scary and nothing happens by coincidence. I think the timing was right and it's a story that needs to be told because of the reality. We need to wake up and face reality and fix the issues.

      Thanks for your comment.

  6. Im yet to hear about any airline program that addresses this problem specifically with emphasis on fellow crew.
    Passengers are the focal point always, and yes should it be flight crew as was in the case of jet blue, a fortified cockpit door is of no relevance

    1. Scrinivas, I'm not sure if they can either. You are so right.. a fortified cockpit door is of no relevance. We need to fix the problem and take care of our pilots. Thanks for your comment.

  7. This could have been happening in your book!
    Pilots are no gods, but just as vunerable as anyone else.

    1. Had the First Officer not been able to lock him out of the Flight Deck that is exactly what would have happened in my book. Too scary!


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