What the Hell is Happening in the Air These Days?

Posted on March 27, 2012

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Is it something in the coffee?  First, we had the incident involving a wigged-out flight attendant who was apparently off her meds and had to be carried, screaming bloody murder, off the plane after being forcibly subdued by other crewmembers and passengers.  Now, we are hearing of an incident in which another plane’s pilot wigged out, resulting in the copilot locking him out of the cockpit and crew and passengers wrestling him to the floor.  No word yet if he was off his meds, too, but I will be very interested to learn the outcome of this.

This is really worrisome.  It makes Steven Slater, the flight attendant who in 2010 famously told off some unruly passengers, grabbed a couple of beers and slide down the emergency slide, look positively tame.  At least we were all pretty sure that he wasn’t actually certifiably insane, and while his actions were wrong – he did land in jail, after all – at least he waited until after the flight was over before launching his spectacular “take this job and shove it” moment.  No one was actually scared that he might wreck the plane.

And that leads to my next point:  these two incidents this month really frightened some of the passengers who witnessed them, probably because we know when we are seeing someone lose it – really lose it – and we never, ever want that to be someone on whom our lives might depend.  Especially when we are trapped with them in a flying sardine tin.

All right, full disclosure:  many years ago, I got my private pilot’s license.  Then as now, pilots have to undergo regular medical exams.  However, back then – in the 1980s – medication in the cockpit was very strictly controlled.  It didn’t take much of a prescription, or much of a medical condition, to restrict someone’s flying activities.  But now?  Notice that just in 2010, the FAA changed its rules on allowable medication for pilots, to allow flight while on psychotropic drugs!   Given that little development, I won’t be too surprised – but I will be very dismayed – if the pilot in the most recent bizarre episode turns out to be just as “off his meds” as the flight attendant earlier this month.

Sorry, but I really question the wisdom of allowing a person with bipolar disorder to serve as a flight attendant, much less as a pilot!  Some disorders, medicated or not, have no place in certain professions.  Politically incorrect?  You bet!  But I would much rather survive my flight with my politically-incorrect but fully reliable crew, than to hail equality for all as I go down in a fireball piloted by a patient having a bad reaction to his meds.

Originally published at The Color of Lila, 27 March 2012

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