Pilot Witnesses to Passengers

Thing is, I could see myself doing this, too.

New York Times:

Maybe Pilots Should Stick to the Script

Granted, probably the very last thing you'd want to hear over the public address system from the cockpit of an airplane is someone shouting "Allahu akbar!" which translates as "God is great," but also is known as a terrorist battle cry.

Still, a pilot who gets on the public address and says, essentially, "Let us all now pray to Jesus" is also sure to make more than a few passengers nervous, for any of a number of religious, cultural or strategic reasons.

This was the situation faced by passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 34 on Friday morning, soon after the Boeing 767 reached cruising altitude after takeoff from Los Angeles en route to New York.

Many were startled when the pilot, Rodger K. Findiesen, came on the public address and asked those passengers who were Christians to raise their hands.

An American spokesman, Tim Wagner, described the incident as he said the pilot himself later related it to his superiors.

"This pilot had recently returned form a Christian fishing trip to Costa Rica and felt like he should share his excitement," Mr. Wagner said. "He did ask that the Christians on board raise their hands and identify themselves, and suggested that everyone who didn't raise their hands might want to speak to those who did about their faith" during the four and a half hour flight.

When the plane landed, many passengers reported being upset.

News accounts over the weekend said that the pilot called passengers who did not accept Christ "crazy," but Mr. Wagner said that it was American's understanding that the pilot actually "said something along the line of 'look at all these crazy people who were willing to raise their hands."'

Mr. Wagner added, "He did say that if any passenger wished to speak to him he would make himself available after the flight to talk."

Reached at his home yesterday in Annapolis, Md., Mr. Findiesen said he had no comment.

American Airlines began a private inquiry Friday into what Mr. Wagner described as the pilot's "poor judgment" and "inappropriate" comments.

The pilot has not been suspended, but is "not scheduled to fly for a few days," he said.

American's 11,000 pilots are covered by "policies that affect all our employees" regarding the discussion of "topics that are inappropriate in the workplace with other employees and with our customers," he said.

"Our policies center around making all of our customers feel comfortable when they fly on American. We realize that we operate in a society with people from varied and diverse backgrounds."

Flight crews are not only intensely supervised by airlines and federal regulators, they also have strong internal controls -- through peer pressure and labor union procedures -- that work to identify and correct violations of professional standards or behavior.

Even if it had not become news, an instance of a pilot's using his authority on a plane to evangelize for religious converts would have been immediately reported by other crew members and dealt with appropriately, one pilot I spoke with said.

Most airlines have training procedures and operational policies in effect to cover things like flight announcements.

"Our crews have specific guidelines, and one of those rules is to not express personal or political views," said Julie King, a spokeswoman for Continental Airlines.

Catherine Stengel, a Delta Air Lines spokeswoman, said, "we pretty much do it in training; we go over what the speaking announcements are," though crew members are sometimes "allowed to tailor those announcements for special circumstances," among them the often poignant speeches some pilots made to passengers shortly after 9/11, she said. "We haven't had any problems," Ms. Stengel added.

Turning the airplane into a revival tent aside, there is nevertheless a trove of cockpit lore about pilots who get innocuously carried away on the public address system -- sometimes with flights of eloquence set off by something as mundane as a pretty cloud formation.

G. Bruce Hedlund, a pilot for 19 years with a major airline, recalled once being in the cockpit after a takeoff on a dark, cloudy day when the aircraft suddenly burst through the clouds into a bright blue sun-washed sky.

Beside him, his co-pilot took to the public address system and seemed to stay on for an inordinately long time.

"I flipped the switch to monitor the P.A. just in time to hear him complete the final two lines of the poem, 'High Flight,"' said Mr. Hedlund, who repeated for me the first two lines of the long, rhapsodic poem (beloved by pilots), by John Gillespie Magee Jr., a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot killed in action in the early days of World War II:

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings!"

"He had recited this whole thing to the passengers because it was just such a beautiful day," said Mr. Hedlund, who added, "I also flew with a guy who would blow a train whistle on the P.A. when we were ready to go."

Some airlines -- among them Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Delta's Song and a few other low-cost carriers -- actively encourage crews, especially flight attendants, to entertain passengers with jokes and wisecracks.

While this has received good notices, I can imagine such fun and games may sometimes rub some people the wrong way. I'd like to hear from readers who have views either way on that.

Rene Foss is a flight attendant for a major airline who is the author of the humorous book "Around the World in a Bad Mood" (Hyperion, 2002) and who performs on her off-time in a one-woman show with the same title. She isn't a fan of ad-libbing in the air.

"My motto personally is pretty much stick to the script, by the book," she said. "Of course, I can get up on the stage later and say whatever I want to say."

I think it was inappropriate

the rev

I didn't say it was appropriate, I said I could see myself coming back from a retreat and beeing fired up enough to do something out of bounds like that. Hah!

yeah I get pretty fired up after a missions trip also.

the rev

See, Rev, you could take your passion to work too.

*punch, strangle* Listen, while I've got you in the guard, would you mind if I talked to you a little bit about Jesus? *gouge, smash*

I agree that it was probably innapropriate. But damn, LOL @ all the whiners. If a muslim were to do the same thing, I would ignore it... not interested! I certainly wouldn't alert the press.

Sign O' the times I guess.

Sorry, but if someone says I need to get educated about Jesus- I ask them to read the Bible, in HEBREW like Jesus did! I've only met one Christian who has. You guys know what I do to people who try to SELL Jesus to me.

um pick your nose in their general direction?

the rev

I'm new to this board and curious.Martial Shadow,what do you do to people who try to SELL Jesus to you?

Quote Hebrew at them, point out why the Jews rejected him since he did not fulfil messianic prophecy, etc. This is only to people who try to sell Jesus, almost everyone here doesn't. :)