Bil Browning

Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies

Filed By Bil Browning | June 22, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: air traffic controllers, anti-gay propaganda, Southwest Airlines

An unlucky Southwest Airlines pilot who decided to go on a sexist, anti-gay, and age-phobic rant in the cockpit found out too late that his microphone had become stuck and transmitted his entire outburst for hundreds of miles. southwest-airlines-plane.jpgAir traffic controller alerted FAA supervisors that they were unable to communicate with other planes during the duration and after a short investigation, the FAA turned over a recording of the rant to Southwest and released the following statement:

On March 25, 2011, about two-and-a-half minutes of conversation that included offensive language and disparaging characterizations of certain groups and individuals was transmitted on an FAA air traffic control frequency as the result of a stuck microphone in an aircraft cockpit. An air-traffic controller in the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center alerted all of the airplanes on the frequency to check for a stuck microphone and indicated that the conversation being broadcast was inappropriate over the air. The FAA determined that the broadcast likely came from a Southwest Airlines flight and sent an audio recording of the conversation to the airline for further action. The incident occurred during a phase of flight in which personal conversations are permitted in the cockpit. Nevertheless, the FAA expects a higher level of professionalism from flight crews, regardless of the circumstances.

The pilot, who Southwest declined to identify, was suspended without pay for a period of time and was required to attend diversity trainings before being allowed back in the air. The flight attendants' union, however, is not happy with the company's response and is threatening to file an EEOC complaint.

The union's statement is after the break. You can read a censored transcript of the rant after the break too.

Statement by Thom McDaniel President of TWU Local 556 Representing Southwest Flight Attendants on Incident of Insults and Slurs Broadcast over ATC Frequencies Demeaning Flight Attendants

Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive, and unprofessional comments demeaning flight attendants that were broadcast by a Southwest pilot over frequencies used by the FAA for air traffic control on March 25, 2011, revealed just yesterday.

Southwest's flight attendants are highly respected by our customers for their skill, professionalism and customer service and expect that same respect from co-workers. We do important work and should not be demeaned by pilots, managers or anyone.

We also are dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines' management.

The official response from Southwest's spokespeople and leaders has only added 'insult to injury.' Calling this broadcast a 'private conversation' cannot dismiss this incident. There is no place in our workplace for any conversation that demeans, insults and discriminates against other employees.

Our Union is rooted in fighting for the rights and protections of working people, including forging the battles to end the prohibition of married women, pregnant women and men from serving as flight attendants and we will not go backward by accepting the behavior and speech of this pilot or any other employee. We are calling on Southwest Airlines to address this problem throughout our company, not as an isolated incident, but as a mandate that our workplace will be free from discrimination of all forms as a condition of continued employment.

We have instructed our attorneys today to investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC charge with the federal government. We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet.

Transcript of Pilot's Conversation

Air Traffic Controller - (ATC) "United 242, you (center up)"

(Stuck microphone begins)

Southwest Pilot: "Well, I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks and, uh, Chicago crews...11 out of 12 ...there's 12 flight attendants, individual, never the same flight attendant twice.

"Eleven (expletive) over the top (expletive), (expletive) homosexuals and a granny."


"Eleven. I mean, think of the odds of that. I thought I was in Chicago, which was party-land."

(Possible attempt to interrupt by ATC)

Southwest Pilot: "After that, it was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes..."

(off mic from his copilot - inaudible)

Pilot answers: "Well I don't give a (expletive). I hate 100 percent of their (expletive)."

"So, six months, I went to the bar three times. In six months, three times."

(Another possible attempt to interrupt by ATC)

"Once with the granny and the (slur against gay people), and I wish I hadn't gone."

"At the very end with two girls, one of them that was part do-able, but we ended up going to the bar and then to the crew at St. Louis, and all these two women wanted to do was, one wanted to berate her sister and the other wanted to bitch about her husband."

"Literally, for three hours, me and the F.O. (First officer). When that was done, got back to my room, I'm like why the (expletive) did I stay up?"

ATC: "OK, whoever is, uh, transmitting, better watch what you're saying."

(Tones beeping)

Southwest Pilot continues: "They're still both (inaudible), you know what I mean? I still wouldn't want anyone to know if I had banged them."

(Tones beeping)

"So, I mean it was a complete disaster for six months."

"Now I'm back in Houston, which is easily where the ugliest base is. I mean it's all these (expletive) old dudes and grannies and there's like maybe a handful of cute chicks."

ATC: "OK, someone's got a stuck mic and, uh, telling us all about their endeavors. We don't need to hear that."

(Stuck microphone episode ends)


(Five seconds later, other commercial pilots check in with controllers)

"Uh, Houston, Skywest 6285, we're (gives numbers for his heading) ...and that was not us."

ATC: (Chuckles) "Skywest 6285, Houston Center: Roger, Climb and maintain flight level 360."

Skywest pilot: "360, Skywest 6285....And they wonder why airline pilots have a bad reputation."

(ATC calls another plane with instructions.)

(Aircraft answers)

ATC: "Number 7 Hotel Bravo: (gives instructions) Final 240."

Aircraft answers "7 Hotel Bravo.....And it wasn't us either."

(beeping times 2)

ATC: 'Roger, I didn't think that was you."

(Recording ends)


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And this guy will continue to wonder why he can't get any dates. I'm glad the flight attendant's union is taking action.


I don't use or fly Southwest anyways. I have been hooked on one particular airline in all my years of flying. Bil you have to admit though Southwest Airlines truly must be a Equal Opportunity Employer if his rants are there are so many gays working internally.

The only problem I have with this is the title...the friendly skies makes it appear to the uninformed (gee, am I calling myself uninformed??) like we are talking about United Airlines (not the most friendly airline in the world, I must admit). I have had good and bad experiences with most airlines.