Air France is investigating a pilot who provoked a near miss at 33,000ft after allegedly “showing off” his control of the aircraft to a boy in the cockpit, the Times reported.
Shaun Robinson, 40, an IT manager from Lancashire and one of 143 passengers aboard the Manchester-Paris flight on Saturday, recounted: “The pilot made a sharp turn to the left, without warning, and then back again, obviously showing the French boy how he flew his plane. I could see the boy. He shook hands with the pilot. He had a big smile on his face when he came out. Moments later the pilot threw his plane into a steep climb.
“We could hear alarms sounding. The two crew members sitting in front of me had terror written across their faces and were gripping their chairs. The pilot told us he was far too close to the plane in front, and air traffic control urgently asked him to climb, climb.”
Robinson said he’d spoken to other passengers who confirmed the pilot “had been showing off”.
The airline told the Times: “Air France takes these allegations extremely seriously. We are investigating.”
While the Air France flyboy’s stunt is likely to land him in hot water, it’s a fairly tame effort compared to that of the senior Cathay Pacific pilot who decided to wow the crowd with a low-level, wheels-up flypast at Seattle’s Everett Airport.
During the white-knuckle ride, he took his charge to just 30ft above the runway, something which duly “stunned into silence” his passengers – including company chairman Christopher Pratt. The Top Gun was subsequently sacked from his £250,000 a year post.
Aeroflot Captain Yaroslav Kudrinski was not that lucky when he gave on the job training to his 15-year-old son — who, with his sister, was apparently receiving a lesson from Dad on how to fly the plane — inexplicably may have disengaged the plane’s autopilot, stalling the craft and sending it into a dive. In a desperate effort to stave off disaster, someone lunged for the control column but the seat was too far back. By the time the seat adjusted properly and control gained he was very nearly succeeded; Flight 593 crashed with its nose slightly up and its wings level, indicating that seconds before impact, someone regained at least control.
Although Aeroflot officials still dispute this version of the crash, this much is clear: 75 more people are now dead in a country where air crashes that year killed nearly five times as many people as in 1987.
Post-Soviet skies become so dangerous that the International Airline Passengers’ Association will begin advising its members “not to fly to, in or over Russia. It’s simply too dangerous.”
That will no doubt be seen by many as a richly deserved rebuke to an airline whose 3,000 planes and 600,000 employees once freighted more passengers more miles in greater discomfort than any other carrier in the world. Tales of Aeroflot’s imperious cabin crews, wretched meals and white-knuckle landings that once left travelers laughing nervously in the aisles have turned decidedly unfunny.