Let’s face it: the worst part of flying isn’t usually the staff, it’s the other passengers. For every single staff member that freaks out, there are thousands of passengers who go nuts on board, but it’s a hell of a lot scarier when it’s a pilot or flight attendant who loses their sh*t mid-flight. Those are the people responsible for making sure you don’t die, but they don’t always take that responsibility seriously.
On a January 2013 flight from Reykjavik, Iceland to New York City, a disorderly passenger had to be duct-taped to his seat after drinking an entire bottle of duty-free alcohol. The kicker is that it wasn’t the flight staff who restrained the man, it was the passengers. The belligerent man was screaming that the plane would crash and attacking his neighbors, including repeatedly trying to choke the person seated next to him.
The passengers came together in a moment of mid-flight solidarity to duct tape the man to his seat without the help of flight staff. They added duct tape to his mouth and who could blame them? The guy was wasted and screaming the plane would crash, and who wants to listen to that on a 6+ hour flight?
It’s bad the flight staff didn’t help subdue the guy, but not nearly as bad as the rest of the airline workers on this list. Imagine if the one piloting your plane is drunk and disorderly. Or, he’s so lost in his text messages that he forgets to lower the landing gear. These things happened, and you can read about them below, but you may not want to fly again after you do.
15. This Is Your Captain Speaking About Her Divorce
Pilots wear uniforms, right? I think they wear a white shirt, some tailored pants, and some wings clipped to their lapel or over the pocket. So, why did a United Airlines pilot show up to her flight wearing a ball cap and civilian clothes? That’s just one of the many mysteries surrounding the February 11th flight that left passengers so stunned many demanded to be allowed off the plane.
The pilot was late to the flight, which hugely inconvenienced passengers. What terrified them was the pilot’s bizarre rant. In view of the passengers, she grabbed the intercom and told passengers that if they didn’t feel safe to get off. Some did, but many more stayed.
She bitched about everything from her divorce to her take on the political climate. At one point, she even antagonized passengers, as if everyone on board was sexist (and not just scared that their pilot was clearly unstable). “Don’t worry,” she taunted. “I’m going to let my copilot fly it. He’s a man, OK?”
14. The Pilot Has Dead Eyes
On a flight from Calgary to Newark, the plane’s pilot tried to land over Toronto. I don’t know exactly that’s what he was doing, but it was over Toronto that passengers felt the plane enter some unexpected turbulence. The plane jolted which caused drink carts to fly from the attendant’s hands. Minutes later, the flight attendants were telling passengers there was a medical emergency, and asking those with medical training to come forward.
Dave Brown recalls the cockpit door opening and seeing the pilot screaming, and holding onto a flight attendant. “He was screaming, ‘Get me off the plane’ – and you don’t want to hear that.” Brown told the Calgary Sun. “He looked like he was insane, grey, dead eyes.”
It took a bit of effort and passenger intervention to get the pilot restrained. The plane was diverted to Toronto, which was an inconvenience for passengers, but it’s likely they were relieved they made it safely to the tarmac. It’s never a good feeling knowing the pilot has cracked up, leaving the controls to a lesser experienced copilot.
13. LOL I’m Flying A Plane. Wat R U Doing?
The pilot of JetStar flight JQ57 almost killed everyone on board when he prepared the plane for landing all while texting on his cell phone. The 220-passenger aircraft arrived on-time in Singapore, but as the plane descended, the copilot felt a sort of uneasiness set in.
He knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on what that was. Spoiler alert: it was the landing gear. And, the closer they got to the ground, the less likely they were to have time for the undercarriage to safely get into place.
The captain was too engaged in cell phone activity to notice, and the copilot didn’t bother telling him that something wasn’t right. “LOL c u soon,” the pilot presumably texted. “We r landing. Work sux.”
It wasn’t until 720 feet that a warning filled the cockpit. The copilot, not as stupid as the pilot, pulled back on the yolk, and everyone narrowly escaped death because the plane was less than 500 feet from the tarmac. If they’d stuck out the landing, the gear never would have had time to lower and everyone would have died in a fiery crash.
12. We’re Not Going To Vegas
On March 27, 2012, passengers boarded JetBlue Flight 191 to Las Vegas. They should have been in good hands with 12-year veteran flyer Captain Clayton Osbon at the helm, but mental breakdowns don’t always happen at opportune moments.
Captain Osbon lost all his marbles mid-air. “We need to take a leap of faith,” he told his confused copilot, First Officer Jason Dowd. He threatened, “I can’t be held responsible when this plane crashes.” Then, he told passengers, “We’re not going to Vegas.” I bet they loved hearing that.
Down tricked Osbon into leaving the cockpit, and changed the security code so he couldn’t return. Unfortunately for passengers, this meant they were stuck with the unruly captain. He screamed there was a bomb on board, and launched into a sermon. He fought endlessly and tried to battle his way back into the cockpit.
11. International Flight Fight Night
In this corner, we have the pilot and two flight attendants engaging in a fist fight. In the other, 113 horrified passengers and crew members are wondering who the hell is flying the plane, and will they soon die? The incident, which took place over Pakistan on a flight from United Arab Emirates to Delhi, lasted a scathing ten minutes. The plane was left unmanned the whole time.
The flight’s crew alleges that the pilot engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with an “air hostess.” The reasonable response would have been to contact management, and deal with the pilot upon landing. Instead, the chief flight attendant entered the cabin, which prompted a brawl to begin there between pilot, copilot, and the chief attendant.
The fisticuffs spilled out of the cabin to the dismay of passengers. They were forced to watch as their pilots fought ruthlessly, and then the female flight attendant got involved too. The pilot threatened to divert the flight, but the fighting persisted until it eventually fizzled out. Everyone made it to their destination, but just imagine the terror the passengers felt the remainder of the flight.
10. Are You Christian? You Better Be
Passengers aboard 2004’s flight 32 from Los Angeles to New York had the scare of their lives when their pilot began proselytizing before takeoff.
“We were just at the beginning of our flight. The pilot came on to greet everyone and give his comments for the morning,” said passenger Jen Dorsey. “And he said he’s been on a mission trip, and he’d like all the Christians to please raise their hands.
He told the passengers that if they weren’t Christian, they were crazy. Imagine sitting there, about to take off, and your pilot is basically making you wonder if he’ll crash it just to teach non-Christians a lesson. Passengers were justifiably freaked out.
“Just given the history of what’s happened on planes in this country, anything can happen at this point,” said Karla Austin, another passenger. “…There was definitely the implication there that we felt that something was going to happen.”
9. Oops, He Missed His Exit
There’s been a lot of speculation over what caused two Northwest airline pilots to overshoot their destination of Minneapolis by 150 miles. The general consensus is that they must have fallen asleep because how else would they go so far beyond their destination? The pilots deny that they passed out, but their excuse isn’t much better.
The flight was heading to Minneapolis from San Diego, which is already about a three-hour flight. Overshoot the destination, and you’re adding some serious time to the journey. The pilots say they were distracted by their laptops. Chew on that for a moment. Anytime you fly, one or more of your pilots may choose Facebook over flying the plane. Except really that’s not true because it’s now illegal for pilots to use electronic devices while taxiing or flying.
Passengers were justifiably shook up by the oversight, but the pilots’ mistakes did cause US lawmakers to see a need for laws against electronic devices in the cockpit, and no one was hurt. The whole thing could have been a lot worse because planes only have so much gas, and they’re not meant to surpass their destinations.
8. Excuse Me, But I Think Your Mic Is On
In 2011, a Southwest Airlines pilot gave air traffic controllers and nearby flight crews the shock of their lives when he left his mic on during a very *ahem* sexually frustrated rant. Apparently, flight attendants don’t feel it’s a necessary job function to dress cute and service their pilots. This didn’t sit well with the unnamed pilot who complained for an absurd amount of time and clogged up the airways too.
“Well,” he lamented. “I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks and, uh, Chicago crews… There’s 12 flight attendants… 11 f—king over the top, f—king a**-f—king homosexuals and a granny.” So, the pilot was crude, a bigot, and an ageist? Do go on…
“Now I’m back in Houston, which is easily one of the ugliest bases. I mean it’s all these (expletive) old dudes and grannies and there’s like maybe a handful of cute chicks…”
He was interrupted by another flight crew warning that they were interrupting the airways, but the pilot was too stupid to realize it was meant for him and kept ranting. In what I think is a weak punishment, the pilot was suspended without pay. If you ask me his ignorance shouldn’t have resulted in a pink slip.
7. The Bathroom Is Occupied
On a Chautauqua Airlines flight from North Carolina to New York, the pilot found himself locked into the bathroom stall. The door had malfunctioned, forcing the pilot to call out to passengers for help. I don’t know about you, but I’d have trouble finding this funny. The pilots stuck in the bathroom, so that leaves us where in terms of a safe landing?
Passengers were quick to help the pilot, including one who had a Middle Eastern accent. In my opinion, an accent should not result in prejudgment in any way; however, the copilot of the flight disagreed. He heard the man knocking on the door in an attempt to alert the copilot to what happened, but the copilot wasn’t buying the story.
“The captain disappeared in the back,” the copilot told air traffic control. “and, uh, I have someone with a thick foreign accent trying to access the cockpit… What I’m being told is he is stuck in the lav. Someone with a thick foreign accent is giving me a password to access the cockpit, and I’m not about to let him in.”
In a feat of strength, the pilot was able to force his way out of the bathroom. He thanked the man with the “thick foreign accent,” and told his copilot what had happened. In the end, it all turned out okay and after they’d calmed down, passengers had a good story to tell.
6. Wrong Button, Copilot
A Japanese passenger jet was traveling from Naha to Tokyo when it took an unexpected nosedive. A disaster was only narrowly missed, and the plane did a near complete 180, hanging terrified passengers from their seats.
The whole nightmare experience can be blamed on a design error. The copilot left his seat in the cockpit to head to the restroom, and on his way back pressed the button to re-enter the captain’s cabin. Only he hit the wrong button; he pressed the rudder button instead. “The All Nippon Airways (ANA) aircraft, carrying 117 passengers and crew, almost flipped over entirely as it dived 6,234 feet in 30 seconds following the error,” reports The Telegraph.
Amazingly, few people were hurt. Only six passengers reported “feeling unwell,” and only two crewmembers had injuries. And the whole thing happened so unexpectedly that it’s amazing more people weren’t thrown into the air to hit the ceiling or worse. Whoever designed the jet needs to lose his or her job because who puts the button that controls the rudder right next to the button that allows people into the cockpit? That’s dumb.
5. No Kids In The Cockpit
Be forewarned, of all the crazy stories here, this one is the saddest because it ends in a lot of fatalities. On September 28th, 1994 Russian airbus pilot Yaroslav Kudrinsky made the terrible decision to allow his young daughter and teenage son to enter the cockpit and sit in the chairs designated to the pilot and copilot. With 75 passengers onboard Kudrinsky thought: what a perfect time for some father-son-daughter bonding, you kids go ahead and touch whatever you want.
In disturbing audio, Kudrinksky’s daughter can be heard asking, “Daddy, can I turn this?” She’s sitting at the copilot’s controls, and her brother is in the pilot’s chair turning the wheel. The plane was in autopilot, and for whatever reason the pilot forgot that if you pull on the wheel hard enough autopilot will relinquish control to the trained human; only, in this situation the human at the wheel had no flying experience.
His father even encouraged him. He told his son, “Turn it! Watch the ground as you turn. Let’s go left. Turn left! (pause) Is the plane turning?” Four minutes later, he asks “Why is it turning? It’s turning by itself!”
4. The Pilot Has A Run In His Stockings
Your pilot should be focused on the flight – above all things, the plane and passenger’s safety should be priority. Except you already know this isn’t the case. These pilots are out their damn minds, and safety doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of things that are important to them.
Colin Glover, a British Airways pilot, was too busy allegedly snapping racy photos to worry about using his hands to fly the plane. With his feet on the controls and his legs in a pair of thigh-high stockings, he took control of his own yoke and flew himself to pleasure town at 38,000 feet. Glover denies it’s him in the photos, but there are pictures that clearly show his face and airline officials fired him.
Although passengers didn’t find out until later, envision waking to this news story and learning it was your flight. How would you feel? Terrified and thankful to be alive, most likely, especially with airline experts warning how dangerous it is to fly a plane in this manner.
3. You Can’t Hit Venus
An Air Canada first officer, which is to say copilot, woke up to the scare of his life in January 2011. He was napping, which is allowed on the Canadian airline, especially on long transcontinental flights. His flight was from Toronto to Zurich, and after about an hour of Z’s the copilot woke up to the pilot casually mentioning there was a US military aircraft nearby.
The copilot had a bit of trouble adjusting to being awake, and seeing things for what they really are. He saw some lights ahead, and thought it was the military aircraft about to hit them head-on. To the shock and dismay of passengers, he pushed on the control stick and sent the plane into a 400-foot plunge. Passengers and crew were flung all over the fuselage, and there was never any real threat. The lights the copilot saw were from the planet Venus, and although it was visible, it’s not possible to collide with Venus.
Passengers were injured, but no one was killed. The nightmare didn’t end when the copilot realized his mistake and the plane recovered, however. The copilots little dip put them only 1,000 feet above the military plane. No one was killed, but those with injuries are currently suing the airline for $20 million.
2. Someone Double Check The Pilot’s Credentials
Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati walked onto the plane dressed in a pilot’s uniform. Despite being a total fraud, she somehow flew from Goa to Delhi, and no one noticed she couldn’t really fly even when her landing was bumpy. Call it beginner’s luck or call her an idiot savant for that one flight, but whatever magic got them to Delhi safety wore off for the flight home.
She almost killed everyone on the return flight when she went for the landing nose first. This amateurish and dangerous move should have resulted in a crash, but a miracle saved everyone on board. Because not landing on the plane’s nose is like the first thing pilots learn, it was pretty obvious Gulati was full of shit by that point. They double checked her documents and discovered they were falsified. She received her pilot’s license without ever actually completing the necessary schooling.
1. The Pilot Is Grounded For Using Meth
Indonesian pilots have a meth problem. They call it shabu-shabu, and it’s so popular with pilots that airlines must do random meth checks. Lion Air, whose slogan is “We make you fly” (not to be confused with we make you high because as far as I know the pilot’s aren’t sharing their meth), was conducted a meth check when it was discovered a pilot was high on crystal meth.
“The pilot was arrested (on Saturday) at 3:30 am with 0.04 grams of crystal meth slipped in an envelope and he was later tested positive for the drug,” said a spokesperson for the National Narcotics Agency.
This was back in early 2012, and was the second time that year that a pilot was arrested for meth use. In Indonesia, crystal meth is more popular than even marijuana. Before the airline made the necessary decision to drug and alcohol test their pilots, there were a series of fatal crashes. In 2007, all Indonesian airlines were banned from the European Union airspace because of the volume of crashes that occurred.