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"Pilots allegedly got naked in cockpit"



Friday, April 25, 2003

Pilots allegedly got naked in cockpit
By Chris Woodyard
USA Today


Southwest Airlines has fired two pilots for allegedly turning their cockpit
into a clothing-optional playpen.

The pilot and co-pilot - both men - were dismissed for allegedly taking off
all or most of their clothes in the cockpit of their aircraft.

"Southwest Airlines conducted a thorough investigation and terminated the
two pilots involved for inappropriate conduct," says spokeswoman Ginger
Hardage, who would not elaborate. Southwest "will not tolerate any
inappropriate or offensive behavior."

Cockpit shenanigans seem to be on the rise, even as pilots and passengers
face the stresses of air terror fears. America West fired a pair of pilots
last year for being under the influence of alcohol in the cockpit after
running up a $142 tab at a Miami bar the night before. And a Northwest
Airlines pilot was arrested in January, after a loaded gun was found in his
carry-on.

The Southwest dismissals occurred earlier this month for an incident that
happened months ago. The names of the pilots involved were not disclosed.

The president of Southwest's pilots association, Capt. Ike Eichelkraut,
would only say, "it's an internal matter."

The pilots involved are appealing their termination, sources say. They
contend that one of them removed his uniform after coffee was spilled. A
flight attendant saw them after being summoned to the cockpit to bring paper
towels and soda water.

Southwest is treating the episode as a prank that went too far.

While the incident occurred on a Boeing 737 in flight, there's no
implication that safety was breeched. And a Federal Aviation Administration
spokesman says there's no specific prohibition against flying naked.

"I'm not aware there are any regulations on the type of clothing, so there's
most likely none on (wearing) no clothing at all," spokesman Les Dorr says.
There are rules against behavior that distracts crewmembers during vital
phases of flight, which is just about anything below 10,000 feet, Dorr
notes.

Southwest is famous for being offbeat. When the airline started flying in
1971, flight attendants wore hot pants and were chosen for sex appeal.
Founder Herb Kelleher, dubbed the "high priest of Ha Ha" by Fortune
magazine, unabashedly said the airline looked for "attitudes; people with a
sense of humor who don't take themselves too seriously."

To this day, Southwest often makes funny in-flight announcements, sometimes
even in song. Kelleher, who has publicly dressed as Elvis, once arm-wrestled
the head of another company for the rights to a slogan.

He lost and was ceremoniously carried from the ring on a stretcher while
sipping shots of Wild Turkey.

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