Fly the Friendly Skies
January 10, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

 
Honestly, I think the pilot acted reasonably. A passenger gets agitated about his carry-on bag and then writes a rambling, crazy-sounding note about the plane blowing up and crashing and passes it to a flight attendant? There are lots of examples of overreaction when it comes to airplane security, but I'm not sure this is one of them.
posted by EarBucket at 1:40 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


What a wacko.
posted by ericb at 1:42 PM on January 10, 2010


"I thought I was going to die, we were so high up," the card said. "I thought to myself: I hope we don't crash and burn or worse yet landing in the ocean, living through it, only to be eaten by sharks, or worse yet, end up on some place like Gilligan's Island, stranded, or worse yet, be eaten by a tribe of headhunters, speaking of headhunters, why do they just eat outsiders, and not the family members? Strange ... and what if the plane ripped apart in mid-flight and we plumited (sic) to earth, landed on Gilligan's Island and then lived through it, and the only woman there was Mrs. Thurston Howell III? No Mary Anne (my favorite) no Ginger, just Lovey! If it were just her, I think I'd opt for the sharks, maybe the headhunters."

According to the article, he handed a note to a flight attendant with the above remarks, and you conveniently leave that out of the post?

Take your OutrageFilter elsewhere.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:43 PM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


In related news: Man removed from plane after security alert at Heathrow.

Note to self: don't make a hoax threat while taxing on a plane.
posted by ericb at 1:44 PM on January 10, 2010


Huh, none of these stories mention the guy's religion. From all the articles about the underpants bomber, I thought that was one of the 5 Ws of newspaper writer.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


I stock up on cash that way, sometimes, by passing a scrawled note to the teller about how my DVD of Bonnie & Clyde has a huge scratch on it and I hope we don't all get shot because who would I even have sex with in that movie, everyone's so old now! When the authorities sit me down for a talk, I tell them, truthfully, that I didn't think the teller was going to care about my DVD collection and I already spent the money she gave me anyway.
posted by damehex at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2010


*taxiing*
posted by ericb at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2010


Oh, come on. That note is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:50 PM on January 10, 2010


Yeah, I think it was the note about the plane blowing up and not Gilligan's Island, but hey, I guess we can focus on any word in the note and get outraged about it.
posted by mathowie at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Maryann or Ginger? I'm in the Maryann camp myself, Ginger was kind of high maintenance. What were we atalking about again?
posted by fixedgear at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


The note was in a sealed comment card envelope, which the flight attendant chose to open in-flight, and it is linked in the post via the CNN coverage (third link), SeizeTheDay.
posted by misha at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clearly, the dude's a bit touched in the head, but he did seal the comment in an envelope and sign his name, so it's pretty obvious that there was no nefarious intent. The pilot turning around was probably(?) sensible, but charging this guy with a felony is far more insane than his note was.

Another example of the War on Sense.
posted by Malor at 1:55 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Johnson has a number of offenses on his record, including fourth-degree assault, criminal mistreatment and harassment. Johnson told investigators that he has medical problems.

I'm thinking, yes, mental problems? That note was something you write while intoxicated or while having an episode. Time for an evaluation.

You know, I had no idea how many crazy passengers flight crews had to put up with before we started having to arrest/investigate them all...
posted by emjaybee at 1:57 PM on January 10, 2010


That's a ridiculous overreaction (given that we didn't see the guy's behavior and have limited information.) Yes, the note is bananas. (Look at the guy's picture.)

But scrambling fighter jets accomplished -- what? Being ready to shoot the plane down if the guy bum rushed the cockpit, seized the controls and crashed into the Kauai airport? There have been quite a few hijackings and bombings of planes over the years. None involved rambling notes about Gilligan's Island and headhunters.
posted by msalt at 1:57 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm thinkin' teabagger.
posted by contessa at 2:03 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't wait until a flight crew mistakes a passenger's flatulence for poison gas and does an emergency landing. At the rate things are going this will probably happen soon.
posted by mullingitover at 2:04 PM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Based on the note and the description of his behavior, I'd say that the likelihood of this guy doing something that could endanger other passengers was higher than average. I don't blame the pilot for wanting him off the plane. I just hope he ends up in counseling rather than jail.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:05 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the pilot acted reasonably. What would be worrying about this situation is not "omg the guy's a terrorist" but, "oh dear, that one's crazier than a bag of bananas." The problem with crazy people is one doesn't know what they're going to do moment to moment. Once someone on an airplane identifies themselves as being absolutely batshit insane, it makes sense to take every step reasonable to insure the safety of everyone involved.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The note was in a sealed comment card envelope, which the flight attendant chose to open in-flight

Unless the pilot in question is Carnac the Magnificent, real terrorists probably do not use sealed comment cards as weapons of mass destruction. It sure looks like the security theatre overreacted.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


>> but he did seal the comment in an envelope and sign his name, so it's pretty obvious that there was no nefarious intent.

I don't see this as obvious. It seems that people committing terrorist acts typically want to take credit for it; if not personally, then at least the responsible organization. I'm not suggesting that this was a terrorist act -- only that the guy having signed his name doesn't downplay the situation.

>> But scrambling fighter jets accomplished -- what? Being ready to shoot the plane down if the guy bum rushed the cockpit, seized the controls and crashed into the Kauai airport?

Well, yeah, or some other location that's more interesting.
posted by JohnFredra at 2:09 PM on January 10, 2010


Clearly, the dude's a bit touched in the head, but he did seal the comment in an envelope and sign his name, so it's pretty obvious that there was no nefarious intent.
I'm not sure why signing his name and sealing the envelope makes it pretty obvious that there was no nefarious intent.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the guy wanted to blow up the plane. Then what does he care whether or not he signs his name on the note? The note on the plane? Which is going to blow up? And with him on it? Oh no, they'll know my name for the brief minutes until they and I are not dead.

I'm not necessarily saying it's not obvious that there was no nefarious intent. I'm saying "signing his name" doesn't make that obvious, nor does sealing the envelope.
posted by Flunkie at 2:11 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


misha: I think his point was the portions he bolded, that you left out of your post. There was a fair deal more than just mentioning a lousy sitcom of the 60s. He wasn't arguing that you failed to link to an article with the note contents. I think many reasonable people would agree it was a dishonest framing.
posted by floam at 2:11 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's think of all the other passengers on that plane. They had to turn around and catch another flight. That had to be at least a three hour detour.

A three hour detour.
posted by cortex at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2010 [83 favorites]


You know, I had no idea how many crazy passengers flight crews had to put up with before we started having to arrest/investigate them all...

I've been on a lot of domestic flights lately and I can tell you, there is always someone crazy on board. I've taken to thinking of the airplane as being like a city bus with wings... and less leg-room.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The guy's a bit put out about having no place to stash his carry-on luggage, and then writes a weird rambling thing on a sealed comment card, and that's a "danger to the flight"? Complete over-reaction. He didn't threaten anything, he expressed worry about the flight, and there are a lot of people who are afraid of flying, so it seems normal in that respect, only weird in how he rambled.

I do hope he is acquitted of all charges, and afforded the mental help he may need.
posted by explosion at 2:15 PM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


shakespeherian- I think you mean weligion.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:15 PM on January 10, 2010


Charging this guy is a waste of money. Unless he has a public defender, it's going to be an insanity plea, with the note submitted as evidence. So he and the state will be out the money it took to establish what should have been obvious from the beginning.

If he has a public defender, then he's going to sit in prison for a while on the taxpayers' tab, to no benefit to anyone except the prosecutor who gets another notch in his gunbelt, and the corporation that runs the prison.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


This guy is clearly not all there. He did a phone interview with the local Fox affiliate last night. He is facing federal charges. And he talked about his case on TV. He must really want to go to jail.
posted by peep at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2010


This is considered reasonable now?

Guy is nervous on a plane. Guy writes a ridiculous note about gilligans island and seals it in the comment card.Someone opens it and turns the plane around?

If he was going to kerplode the plane, why would he write a note? Why would it be about gilligans island? Why would it be in a comment card?

Why is this considered a reasonable response? If someone is dorking with their carryon, look in it (if that's how we're playing this). If someone is nervous, engage them. If someone is dorking with their carryon and is nervous, and then writes some bizarre diatribe on a sealed comment card, well, they might be nuts but they're not going to kerplode the plane.

By no means is this a reasonable response. If we have to be vigilant to the point of insanity, arresting anyone with a tic, stomach virus, restless leg, or whatnot, as a society we should never ever ever fly again. There is no way we can ever be safe and we should write the skies off completely.

Might I suggest trains?
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


And in any case, "signing his name and sealing the envelope" does nothing to alleviate concerns, based on the note, that the guy is crazy.
posted by Flunkie at 2:18 PM on January 10, 2010


I had no idea how many crazy passengers flight crews had to put up with before we started having to arrest/investigate them all

Totally. The guy showed seriously poor judgment, but he's probably no dumber or crazier than a ton of other people out there.

Maybe this story will deter some of them from acting weird on transcontinental flights, but absurd shit like this is still going to happen. I feel lousy for everyone involved.
posted by ducky l'orange at 2:20 PM on January 10, 2010


The note was in a sealed comment card envelope, which the flight attendant chose to open in-flight

Is it unheard of to open these comment cards in flight? Judging from the article the guy had already stirred up a bit of trouble stowing his overhead luggage.

It sure looks like the security theatre overreacted.

All it ever does is overreact. We wouldn't have even heard about this nutball if security hadn't overreacted.

I think the pilot can do whatever he wants to, and if he felt threatened by the card, by all means turn back. That part seems sensible. Sending to F15's to escort it back is a bit over the top.
posted by graventy at 2:22 PM on January 10, 2010


Might I suggest trains?

to hawaii?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:22 PM on January 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


>> real terrorists probably do not use sealed comment cards as weapons of mass destruction.

Terrorist-Gambit totally would. Totally.
posted by JohnFredra at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Might I suggest trains?

to hawaii?


Please keep all windows closed for the duration of the trip.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


If that's terroristic we are all just totally fucked.

Batshitinsane yes, a danger to the flight no.

Prison time maybe for being completely out of touch with reality???? Be careful people, you're gonna have to sleep in this bed you're making.....I'm just sayin.
posted by gigbutt at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maryann or Ginger?

Why do we always treat this as a binary either/or? Can't it be both?
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


The terrorists have won.
posted by weezy at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Hey! HEY! If you don't settle down back there, I'm gonna turn this plane around right now!"

I'm not particularly shocked that they decided to turn the plane around. That note was creepy as hell.

I was going to argue that it was a bad move on the part of the flight attendants and the captain, but after thinking a bit I'm not so sure. You have a message there that makes an allusion to planes breaking in half and crashing - which could definitely seem menacing if you happen to be on a plane at the time. So, do you just ignore it? We already have a guy who was allegedly agitated about the placement of his bag in the cabin. I don't think too many people would be comfortable with that option.

Do they pull him aside and ask him about the note? Do they try to detain him? That would probably be a bad idea. If anyone else on the plane gets the idea that something just not right, you could have more people start freaking out. And I think a plane full of grumbling travelers cooped up in a tin can is one of the last places where you'd like to have absolute pandemonium.

Really, turning the plane around doesn't seem like such a bad move. At worst, it was a waste of everyone's time. I'd take that in exchange for safety, though (and with 'safety' I'm talking about the potential for having a riot on the plane here, not about an actual bombing). And I believe that I've read that getting a fighter jet escort is just a part of the whole 'unexpectedly turning your plane around' thing. Though I could be wrong.

At this point, after the fact, I'm more interested in what kind of punishment this guy's going to get. According the the CNN article it looks like he could potentially be staring down 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That's extremely harsh to what was probably just a joke. Even if it was a really bad one.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 2:27 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I seriously can't fucking wait for the TSA to decide this means they should ban writing implements, paper, and communication with flight attendants.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I haven't been on a plane since the 1980s, and averaged once every 3-4 years after that, and I can recall being within a row or two of somebody acting crazier than that (and openly, not in a message in a sealed envelope) more than once. Hell, I've acted crazier than that and got no more than a whispered admonishment from a flight attendant. (I was 12 years old and flying alone for the first time) As much as I'd enjoy traveling the world, the only way I'll ever fly a commercial airline again is under full sedation.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:32 PM on January 10, 2010


Imagine the panic that would've ensued if he'd complained that the entertainment system didn't include Snakes on a Plane.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised we don't see more of this.

That is, travellers displaying their inchoate rage at the only visible and accessible part of the broken system they find themselves in.

I'm not making any excuses for this idiot, but air travel has become such a drag I'm considering never going anywhere again unless I'm driving. (If someone does something to disrupt the already failing rail travel in North America I'm closing up shop for good; screw international travel forever. I'll vacation in Brampton.) The irony that exchanging road travel for air means I'm actually introducing more risk to my health is not lost on me.

And yet there is a huge part of the world where access to air travel is such a deep signifier of success (i.e., the Big Once In a Lifetime Trip to a Hot Vacation Spot) where people don't know yet how shitty it is to be shoved around by the people mover machine. I suspect that they will inevitably react poorly.

I mean, it's pretty obvious that most of what is done in the name of "security" is a sham, and even casual travellers figure that out pretty quick. After the 23rd time being inconvenienced for reasons you know have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with appearance, us regular folks can get a little testy. And since you aren't allowed to, you know, display /any/ unacceptable emotion (to be determined in ways that seem purely arbitrary) while you are in the system, some folks just crack under the pressure.

Yeah, I know we are all supposed to be blown away with amazement at sitting on our asses going 700 km/h while we watch TV, but the fact is that it doesn't come for free. After several hours of corporate direction and fake smiles, anyone is bound to get a bit tetchy.

In some ways this thing we call "class" can often be seen as how different people handle this.
posted by clvrmnky at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


If someone is dorking with their carryon and is nervous, and then writes some bizarre diatribe on a sealed comment card, well, they might be nuts but they're not going to kerplode the plane.

Why wouldn't they? Perhaps they are not only nuts, but really, really into kerplosions. Like I said, crazy people are crazy. Some are so crazy they're willing to kerplode a whole bunch of people to kingdom come because the implant the Carlyle Group installed in their molar told them too.

It's hard to tell the difference between "normal" crazy and "dangerous" crazy. If someone was both crazy, and waxing poetic about 'we all gonna die. I like farmgirls. Cannibal Fruit Train!' well, that's a legitimate security risk.

Hopefully, though, he won't do 20 years as much as being forced into therapy of some sort.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:35 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe anyone thinks this is sensible. Guy's irritated he can't stow is carry-on under his seat and later writes a goofy rambling comment card sealed in an envelope and that's reason to return to the airport (never mind scrambling fighters to escort)?

Via this bizarre better-safe-than-sorry, we'll-bend-over-and-take-it-if-you-don't-let-them-hurt-us, chicken-shit attitude, we do ourselves us far more harm than any terrorists ever have.
posted by Ickster at 2:37 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


weezy: "The terrorists have won."

I said that to a security guard last night as he asked me, because of 9/11, not to take pictures of the NBC skyscraper at Universal City. It's ironic that it's popular in the US to mock the French for cowardice, as I don't think the french are pissing their pants about terrorism nearly as bad as people in this country are.
posted by mullingitover at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


Might I suggest trains?

to hawaii?


That reminds me of the old joke:

A surfer finds a genie bottle on a beach. Upon releasing the genie from captivity, he is offered a wish.

"Gee, it'd be great if there was a train direct to Hawaii - then I could go surfing there whenever I wanted!"

"A train? To Hawaii? That's quite a tall order. Is there anything else you'd like to wish for instead?"

"Well, it'd be nice to understand how the female mind works..."

"The train it is, sir!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:40 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


That part seems sensible. Sending to F15's to escort it back is a bit over the top.

Probably. OTOH, if they were going to get sent up on a training sortie anyway, you might as well have them shadow the airliner as better training if nothing else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many times in the History of Commercial Aviation has an 'incident' like this led to a real threat to the plane and everyone in it? Because for much of the first 80 years or so, they did NOT routinely turn the planes around unless a passenger became truly violent.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:45 PM on January 10, 2010


Take-home Lesson (if it needed to be learned): don't write crazy-sounding notes about the plane blowing up and crashing and then hand them to the flight attendant on a plane.

Mid-flight is not the time for you to get your jollies with those kind of jokes, or therapy for your fucked-up-ed-ness or whatever kind of attention you want to smooth your ruffled feathers because your flight experience isn't to your satisfaction. The whimsy of Gilligan's Island, while covering for a multitude of sins (and I'm a big fan), is not sufficient to overcome the understandable concern that such a note might engender in this day and age.

Again, it's not about the Gilligan's Island...it's about the crazy sounding passive-aggressive note teasing about the plane blowing up and crashing.
posted by darkstar at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2010


Maryann or Ginger?

Why do we always treat this as a binary either/or? Can't it be both?



I always thought The Professor was kinda cute. I totally could've shared a hut with him. It would have been the best damn hut on that island, too: indoor plumbing, electricity and frothy cocktails every Tuesday.
posted by darkstar at 2:55 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


They should just gag, handcuff and blindfold all the passengers at the beginning of all flights. The in-flight entertainment could be a constant drone of white noise.

It has already been established that there is no line that can't be crossed when it comes to ensuring the security of people. Giving up comfort and basic human dignity is a small price to pay for safety.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your are hereby sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime of being cranky and inarticulate on a passenger aircraft.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2010


weezy: The terrorists have won.

I think it was Will Self who said recently that the only thing that seems to upset people en-masse these days is inconvenience. Having your plane turn around due to excessive carefulness of the crew is inconvenient. But its not particularly terrible.

If Al-Qaeda had set themselves up as "Inconveniencists" instead of "Terrorists", then maybe, yeah, you would be able to say that they had achieved their aims.
posted by memebake at 3:06 PM on January 10, 2010


Not my insight, but think about this: Mr. Howell--with his ill-gotten millions of unpaid wages--could have had any woman, Mary Ann or Ginger, or, hell, both. But with whom did he stick? Hm? Lovey Howell. What was she doing to that old man that blinded him to the other women? Freaking Lovel Howell. Minx.
posted by John of Michigan at 3:08 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article:
The "Gilligan's Island" references were to a 1960s-vintage CBS television comedy about a charter boat crew and their oddball passengers who become shipwrecked and wind up living together on a tropical island.
That's helpful.
Might I suggest trains? -- Lord Pall
A train to Hawaii?
Why wouldn't they? Perhaps they are not only nuts, but really, really into kerplosions. Like I said, crazy people are crazy. Some are so crazy they're willing to kerplode a whole bunch of people to kingdom come because the implant the Carlyle Group installed in their molar told them too.
Well, why wouldn’t anyone try to blow up a plane? For one thing, we're supposed to assume that they haven't managed to bring any explosives on board, thanks to security. What exactly did people thing he was going to do? The note is not a threat, it's just rambling nonsense. Maybe he thought it was funny. Maybe he was being sarcastic. I can understand taking the plane around, especially since it's a however many hour flight. But charging him with a crime is insane.
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not my insight, but think about this: Mr. Howell--with his ill-gotten millions of unpaid wages--could have had any woman, Mary Ann or Ginger, or, hell, both. But with whom did he stick? Hm? Lovey Howell. What was she doing to that old man that blinded him to the other women? Freaking Lovel Howell. Minx.

But what good would that money have done on the Island?
posted by delmoi at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2010


The whole trend here, with this "Land, then deal with it" rules-of-engagement is leaving me with the feeling that the Pilot really isn't in command of their aircraft anymore, and they're being forced to follow yet another dumb checklist.

As if the experience with the checklist which said, "Cooperate with hijackers" wasn't enough of an object lesson.
posted by mikelieman at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2010


Giving up comfort and basic human dignity is a small price to pay for the illusion of safety.

Adjusted for better accuracy.
posted by Malor at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2010


The meandering tone of the note, the TV sitcom musings, and the string of "what if" hypotheticals made me double-check the article to be sure he hadn't been on a flight leaving Hawaii. The only thing missing was "In closing, do you have any extra cookies back there? Because they were awesome."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2010


All of you cowards who think this is a "reasonable response" -- YOU are the problem. Get yourselves a sense of perspective.
posted by mr. strange at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Well, turning the plane around wasn't completely stupid, mr. strange, but obviously charging the guy is way over the top.
posted by Malor at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2010


Wait a minute. Maybe the guy was freaking out maybe not. Who knows. We're only getting one side.

It's a crime to express your fear that a plane MIGHT blow up, now? For fuck sake who has not sat there and thought "Hey this plane could blow up any second." All this guy did was write it down in, perhaps a rather disjointed way, a comment card that any normal person assumes is sent back to some corporate office stooge days after the flight, and then read.

I never knew comment cars were read on the flight that second. That's kind of fucked up if your stuck with a shithead flight attendant you want to complain about. Suddenly they read the comment card and spit in your coffee... or now maybe call the FBI on you for some trumped up bullshit. Are we supposed to just submit to every little Sky Hitler just because cooped up in a tin can at 20,000 feet?

F-15s? How much did that little bullshit just cost the taxpayer. Not to mention the 200 other passengers who's travel plans, vacations, and businesses just got fucked up. So every person on the plane who looks twice at an attendant and makes an off hand comment and we dispatch the F-15? Jesus Christ. What's next? The ddeply a carrier task force and bomb the guys house? God this country is brimming with busybody chicken shits.
posted by tkchrist at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


ddeply=deploy
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on January 10, 2010


Eh. You're at 30,000+ feet with someone who is demonstrably unbalanced in a tin can, with little space to manuever. I highly doubt they were concerned about terrorist activity, but the very real chance things could get ugly in a moment's notice. It's obviously a judgement call, but if he had harmed someone on the flight after drawing so much attention to himself then the airline would have been held responsible.

I hope he gets some help instead of jail time, but somehow I doubt that will happen.
posted by jnaps at 3:31 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's what he had to say:
Johnson told authorities that he had flown only about four times in his life and that the Maui-bound flight was his first over water; that he had occupied himself first by reading in-flight magazines and then by filling out comment cards provided by the airline. He said he had lifted the phrase for the card "I thought I was going to die" from comedian Mike Myers, the affidavit said.

"Johnson stated that he didn't think anyone would open it during the flight," the affidavit added. "He told me that he thought the card was going to be taken back to an office somewhere, opened, and everyone in the room would 'get a laugh' from it, and that perhaps he'd even get some frequent flyer miles out of it. Johnson stated he didn't intend to scare anyone and he would not have written his name on the card if it was a threat. Johnson stated that he felt bad about what had happened and that he was sorry."
Jesus Christ people. The idea that he's insane or unbalanced or whatever is seriously paranoid. It was a joke that failed, one he didn't even expect to be read by the flight staff.
posted by delmoi at 3:38 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I never knew comment cards were read on the flight that second.

Aren't they usually left behind in the seat to be collected later? Is it usual to hand one to an attendant mid-flight? I'd probably read it right away in that scenario, especially if I'd already had some kind of run-in with the guy.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:38 PM on January 10, 2010


Hmm. Crazy or ambien?
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


All this guy did was write it down in, perhaps a rather disjointed way, a comment card that any normal person assumes is sent back to some corporate office stooge in an outsourced market research company days after the flight, and then read transformed into a generic code, such as "371 - Anxious about safety"

I know for a fact that Qantas outsources this kind of market research, and would be surprised if any major airline bothers processing this kind of data inhouse - surveys, data entry & response coding are on-demand commodity items in a highly competitive market, for which it would be wasteful to build up an inhouse capability.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


He should have just shat on a food cart. That guy only got two years probation, 300 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.
posted by Tenuki at 3:53 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The terrorists have already won.

Let's put that tired cliché out of its misery, already. It's been repeated so many times in so many situations it's just about meaningless. If anything the phrase is just a lazy way to express one's dislike of inconvenience.

Can't take a picture of whatever you want whenever you want? Terrorists have already won.

Have to remove your shoes at an airport? Terrorists have already won.

Can't write crazy-pants notes about dying in a flurry of metal and fire? Terrorists have already won.

Can't take 16 items through the express line? Etc. Etc.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:57 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: 'we all gonna die. I like farmgirls. Cannibal Fruit Train!'
posted by jason's_planet at 4:01 PM on January 10, 2010


Check this shit out:
Haisong Jiang just wanted to say goodbye to his girlfriend before she boarded a flight back home to California, said friends of the 28-year-old Rutgers University student who last week walked into a secure area of Newark Liberty International Airport
...
He faces a fine of up to $500.
Okay, $500 no big deal right?
But New Jersey’s senators said Saturday that the Jan. 3 security breach at the airport should not be downplayed as merely the act of a romantic man.

“What he may have thought was a cute trick turned out to be a disaster,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg said about Jiang, a doctoral student arrested late Friday for the airport breach that stranded thousands of travelers.

Jiang was with his girlfriend, a former Rutgers student who was flying home to Los Angeles. She has not been identified.

“People who say he was just a Romeo don’t understand the gravity of this situation, when you look at all the inconvenience to over 16,000 people, the delays, the concerns, the fears and the costs in financial terms,” Lautenberg said.

Lautenberg called for harsher penalties for Jiang, who faces arraignment on a “defiant trespassing” charge for the breach. He faces a fine of up to $500.

Lautenberg, a Democrat, said he would push for a review of federal statutes “to see if there is any course of action” that could be taken against Jiang.

I’d like to see if we can bring this under federal jurisdiction, as opposed to just a misdemeanor and a $500 fine, that’s a slap on the wrist,” Lautenberg said. “He maybe thought he was being a Romeo, but he added to our woes, to the unease about travel. An example has to be made of this.
Seriously.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on January 10, 2010


its not the 'inconvenience' that means the terrorists have won; its that people in power think these inconveniences are meaningful, effective, and appropriate.
posted by yesster at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


I may be wrong, but it seems the fighter jets were scrambled by NORAD without a request from the pilot (or airline):

The military decided that fighters should accompany the flight after receiving "indicators" of a problem, said Lt. Cmdr. Gary Ross, a NORAD spokesman. He declined to elaborate on those indicators but noted that NORAD often must make decisions with limited amounts of time and information about whether fighter jets should accompany commercial flights that may be experiencing problems....

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Wagner said pilots occasionally return a jet to the airport from which it took off. But, he said he had never known one of the flights to be escorted by fighter jets. "That's new for us," he said. John Cornelio, also a NORAD spokesman, said the command routinely monitors events in the air via the Domestic Events Network, a sort of party line that includes representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies involved in national security.

posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on January 10, 2010


The people in power have already won.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:17 PM on January 10, 2010


Let's take a look at that note:

That looks like "gub" it doesn’t look like "gun". That’s a B.
posted by panboi at 4:18 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The flight attendants aren't freaking mind readers who automatically know which creepy, antagonistic teasing-about-the plane-blowing-up passengers are real threats and which aren't. So I guess the real question is: on which side would you like them to err when they're faced with a situation like this?

If YOU were a pilot on a plane with a guy behaving like this - angry about his bag and then writing this kind of note to the flight attendants - would you just shrug it off, assuming the guy was just harmless?

All that said, the fighter escort was way over the top, the guy clearly shouldn't be charged with a federal crime and Lautenberg's posturing on the grad student case is just stupid.
posted by darkstar at 4:24 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lautenberg's posturing on the grad student case is just stupid.

You misspelled "evil."
posted by mediareport at 4:30 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The note isn't about blowing up a plane; it's about being afraid of crashing. The guy doesn't even seem particularly "crazy" to me. Here's someone who has hardly ever flown, is taking his first flight over the ocean, is afraid of flying, and is already agitated by not being able to keep his bag beneath his seat -- further evidence of the fact that he's probably not familiar with the etiquette of flying. It sounds like he was just trying to keep himself occupied by doing something no more harmful than filling out the suggestion cards in a restaurant.

Yes, I think the flight crew overreacted. I don't think he should be charged with a federal crime because, well, he didn't actually commit a crime. When we start shitting our pants and making examples of every minute incident, the terrorists have won.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:37 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


So I guess the real question is: on which side would you like them to err when they're faced with a situation like this?

Is it worth adding 4+ hours to your flight?

(90 minutes back, ~1h at the airport, plus another 90 minutes to get back to where you turned around)
posted by delmoi at 4:39 PM on January 10, 2010



If YOU were a pilot on a plane with a guy behaving like this


Behaving like what? I see no clear accurate description of how he was behaving. We have one side. The side that had ended up turning around and having an F-15 escorting it. you don't think it's in thier best interests to pad this shit as much as they can? I'm reserving judgment on this guy until I read more than one —and more thorough— account of this.

And the comment card was neither threatening nor meant to be read by the pilot. A bomber is hardly gonna fill out a fucking complaint form that he assumes is destined for a corporate office, on plane that he intends to blow up. Like. What? He knew the forensics teams were gonna piece it together at the crash site or something? Sure he could just have been a nut. But hardly likely a bomber. In which case I'd be more worried about where that bomb was. And why do you need F-15 escorting a plane with a bomb? I would assume that would be a hijacking precaution. And clearly the plane was not hijacked. I mean the whole thing doesn't add up and just seems like a fucking stupid over reaction by an over emotional crew to nothing.

And I say this a person whose brother in law is Delta pilot. So I am somewhat familiar with at least some of Deltas procedures. And this one stinks of bullshit.
posted by tkchrist at 4:43 PM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


When will they start issuing tasers and plastic zip tie handcuffs to flight crews, or have they done so already? How long before some well-meaning passengers kill some poor schmuck by crushing his windpipe because he mouths off to a member of the flight crew?
posted by fixedgear at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2010


So I guess the real question is: on which side would you like them to err when they're faced with a situation like this?

On the side of getting everyone where they want to go most conveniently and taking into account how rare terrorism is. I'd be Just Fine with doing away with 100% of the security theater, make it as easy to get on a plane as it is to get on a train, and just be fine with people dying here and there. We're okay with an absolute shitload of automobile deaths, why do we treat the sky so special?
posted by floam at 4:48 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


The note isn't about blowing up a plane; it's about being afraid of crashing. The guy doesn't even seem particularly "crazy" to me. Here's someone who has hardly ever flown, is taking his first flight over the ocean, is afraid of flying, and is already agitated by not being able to keep his bag beneath his seat -- further evidence of the fact that he's probably not familiar with the etiquette of flying. It sounds like he was just trying to keep himself occupied by doing something no more harmful than filling out the suggestion cards in a restaurant.

If you can't handle flying, if you're going to deal with your anxieties by getting liquored up and/or making a complete fucking spectacle of yourself, you really need to own up to that particular weakness and either get some professional help for it OR choose vacation spots that you can drive to.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:49 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm usually one of the first to think that airplane security is way out of hand. But, in this case I think the pilot made an appropriate call. The reason that the aviation industry has such an incredibly good safety record is because if there is any doubt they get the plane on the ground and then deal with the issue. It is easy to sit in a warm house after the fact and conclude that this note is just crazy and harmless, but the pilot had no way to know it wasn't crazy and just crazy. Fundamentalist terrorists aren't the only thing that can go wrong. As this article notes "There are a number of stories from the 1950s and the 1960s, believe it or not, of people blowing up commercial jets to collect life insurance." That's an old new kind of crazy.

Scrambling jets and charging the guy might be over the top (he needs mental health services not a court date), but the decision to turn around appears reasonable to me.
posted by meinvt at 4:49 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The FAA and NORAD are sort of in a damned if they do/damned if they don't situation here, having failed to respond to an out-of-communications plane last year.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2010


So now all the terrorists have to do is send a note?
posted by unSane at 4:56 PM on January 10, 2010


Nice to see people using critical thinking and not falling for the facile OutrageFilter.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:57 PM on January 10, 2010


Consonants Without Vowels wrote: We already have a guy who was allegedly agitated about the placement of his bag in the cabin.

Have you ever been on a plane? In or near the bulkhead seat?

I ask because most every time I find myself on an airplane and near the bulkhead seats, I see and/or hear at least one person complaining loudly when they have to find some place far away to stuff their bag. That is not at all unusual.

The note, on the other hand, is a little out there, but most people are as best I can tell, out there, most of the time.

I can vaguely understand turning around the plane, but I fail to see how the filing of charges is even vaguely reasonable based on the facts as outlined in the article. If complaining about not being able to keep your bag with you is interfering with a flight crew, they need to get on the stick, as there are a few million more folks who need to be arrested.

There was obviously no intent to interfere with the flight crew with the note, again, based on the facts as conveyed in the CNN article.
posted by wierdo at 5:07 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"If you can't handle flying..."

You make it sound like it's some totally bizarre phobia (or manifestation of other phobias) that nobody has ever heard of. It's pretty common, which is why many people find this to be outrageous. Furthermore, calling it a "weakness" that requires "professional help" shows that you're not really interested in doing much more than propagate stigma against mental illness *and* encourage security theatre along the way.
posted by autoclavicle at 5:08 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> How long before some well-meaning passengers kill some poor schmuck by crushing his windpipe because he mouths off to a member of the flight crew?

That's a pretty good question. Bruce Schneier is fond of saying that passenger resistance is one of the two things that's actually made flying safer. I think there has been a lowering of the bar for passengers taking matters into their own hands, and I think that the airlines are wise to do everything they can to prevent this from happening. It's certainly to the benefit of the industry's health (and everybody's nerves) to prevent passengers from maiming each other on their flights.

Delmoi asked if this situation merited adding adding 4+ hours to everyone's travel day. Consider that their flight had 4+ hours left until they got to Maui. That's a lot of time for a situation to escalate, all the while getting further from anywhere to land. Yeah, flight crews deal with jerkoff passengers all the time, and there was something about this situation that was different. I want to trust that the flight crew are decent, professional people that made the best call that they could, weighing it against what would assuredly be a bunch of pissed off customers.

>> YOU are the problem. Get yourselves a sense of perspective.

What perspective would you suggest, other than your own, that would make me not the problem?
posted by JohnFredra at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2010


In the near future, all air travel will be like The Fifth Element: slide into a cubical, and the flight attendant presses a button to dispense a gas that knocks you out for the duration of travel.
posted by bwg at 5:25 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Furthermore, calling it a "weakness" that requires "professional help" shows that you're not really interested in doing much more than propagate stigma against mental illness *and* encourage security theatre along the way.

Hey, I've had more than my fair share of emotional problems in my life. I've made repeated references to that history of emotional problems in AskMe threads and have shown nothing but support for people there who are seeking help.

So the idea that I'm trying to stigmatize people with mental illness is utter horseshit.

What I'm addressing is this guy's failure to be honest with himself about his limitations. If you cannot handle flying, it is your responsibility as a grownup to:

a.) deal with that problem, by self-therapy or by finding a therapist who specializes in treating that phobia.

b.) face up to that particular limitation and find alternative modes of transportation.

Yes, flying is stressful. And it's even more stressful in close quarters with some drunken mook behind you shouting "WE'RE ALLLLL GONNA DIE!!!!!" when the plane encounters some turbulence.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:32 PM on January 10, 2010


bwg, having worked in a job that required me to be traveling by air about 50% of the time, that would be bliss. Some of my trips involved more than 24 hours of air travel.

If they could keep us unconscious during the layovers, too, I'd be willing to kick in an extra few bucks for the service.

Alternately, pipe in a small amount of nitrous into the cabin's air supply. Keep everybody nice and happy. That'd be worth an extra five bucks and they can keep their lousy headphones.
posted by darkstar at 5:32 PM on January 10, 2010


Delmoi asked if this situation merited adding adding 4+ hours to everyone's travel day. Consider that their flight had 4+ hours left until they got to Maui.

And, as everybody knows, bombs can only detonate when heading westwards. Turning the plane back eastwards defuses them.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:35 PM on January 10, 2010


I want to trust that the flight crew are decent, professional people that made the best call that they could, weighing it against what would assuredly be a bunch of pissed off customers.

The fact that they opened a sealed comment card, in-flight, makes it virtually certain that this is not the case.
posted by Malor at 5:42 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what good would that money have done on the Island?

Currency can be exchanged for goods and services!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 PM on January 10, 2010


Passengers have had thes issues before. My favorite, Groucho's customs card:
NAME: Julius H. Marx
ADDRESS: 21 Lincoln Road, Great Neck, Long Island
HAIR: Very little
OCCUPATION: Smuggler
PURCHASES: Wouldn't you like to know!
posted by caddis at 5:52 PM on January 10, 2010


If YOU were a pilot on a plane with a guy behaving like this - angry about his bag and then writing this kind of note to the flight attendants - would you just shrug it off, assuming the guy was just harmless?

Absolutely. The behavior here wouldn't even make me switch seats, if it were to happen on a bus, much less cause me to disembark. I generally assume people are harmless until they actually do something threatening - the odds are with me on that assumption.

According to the articles, the guy did nothing out of the ordinary except for being irritated that he couldn't have his carry-on bag close by (what's the point of carrying it on, if you can't get to it?) and writing a stupid note that was 80% Gilligan's Island, and 20% "I hope nothing really awful happens to the plane"

I am appalled at the level of pure, pants-wetting cowardice that has been cultivated in this country. Cowards like this flight crew shame us all.

I feel like on my next flight I ought to inflate the airsick bag and pop it loudly mid flight, just so all the bed-wetters could have heart attacks and die.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:58 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


UbuRoivas, with due respect, I'm not talking about bombs. I'm talking about passengers beating the shit out of each other.

>> The fact that they opened a sealed comment card, in-flight, makes it virtually certain that this is not the case.

Are you saying this because of the content, or the fact that they opened it at all?
posted by JohnFredra at 6:07 PM on January 10, 2010


This guy was already in shambles, I can't imagine the demons in his head once he saw the F-15's. Charge him with getting the help he needs and a good night's rest.
posted by june made him a gemini at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2010


The fact that they even opened the comment card is extremely unprofessional.
posted by Malor at 6:25 PM on January 10, 2010


And this one stinks of bullshit.

Just wait until the right-wing tries putting fliers into dog collars. Oh wait.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:40 PM on January 10, 2010


I can see your point -- I don't know that I'd have an expectation that the flight crew would be the first to read my comments. But suppose it read something totally benign like, "Man, I really wish you guys could keep these planes a little cooler." That would be something they could immediately address and make the passenger a bit more comfortable. I just don't see it as extremely unprofessional. Potato potahto, I suppose.
posted by JohnFredra at 6:40 PM on January 10, 2010


Is there evidence that mentally unstable people are now more likely to bomb planes? Because for the first eighty years of air travel the microscopic risk some nutter would blow up the plane was accepted as vanishingly small, and planes got where they were going without fighter escorts.
Since 2001 there has been increased concern about religious extremists blowing up planes, and while still a minuscule risk, there has been lots of action to attempt to (appear to) thwart it.
The second case doesn't lead to the conclusion we need to rate the first case as any more likely.
Everything about this case looks stupid. The passenger was a fool, but the actions of the crew and authorities in no way countered their imagined risk scenario, just wasted everyone's time and burnt some extra tonnes of avgas.
posted by bystander at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2010


We're going to see more and more of these.

He just snapped. His letter is very clear. He snapped because of too much pressure. And they're going to keep putting more pressure on us. The pressure, the freak-outs on the part of the government, all of these things indicate deep insecurity. The more security theatre we get in our air travel, the more stressful it'll be, and the more likely that some poor stressed out sap like this guy will lose it.

And what did he say? Nothing! There is no possible way to read that letter as a threat. It's clear that he's expressing fear of flying - a very common and quite rational fear shared by millions of people. He did not put this message into a place where he had the expectation that anyone would read it on the flight.

Perhaps turning back was reasonable - even though in hindsight the man was harmless. Perhaps.

But scrambling jets? What, exactly, were they supposed to do? Can anyone suggest any scenario where this is useful?

Charging this man with a felony? Using what evidence? Could any reasonable human read that letter and really think that someone was trying to convey a threat? He will say, "Gee, I was frightened, I took some tranquillizers, and then wrote weird shit on that card. I didn't intend to threaten anyone, I don't see a threat there, I didn't even expect anyone to read it, and frankly, I'm not even sure what the letter means now I'm sober."

They'll waste hundreds of thousands of dollars and nothing will happen. And if something DID happen, if the poor sap went to jail, it would be an example all right - an example to make the next guy just a little bit more nervous and likely to snap in his turn.

At some point, the United States is going to have to show that they are strong. It's clearly to everyone in the world except a few Americans that these massive overreactions show weakness, cowardice and fear.

I've lived in New York for 25 years. When I first moved here I lived in some fairly rough neighborhoods. I had friends come to visit who walked in fear the whole time and as a result we'd get hassled when we went out. I pointed out that by looking frightened and hostile all the time they were a magnet for people to attack them.

Grow up, America. Get a backbone, already.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:57 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't say I blame the captain for making the decision to turn the plane around. There are other threats to safe flight besides bombs or hijacking. Having someone who has been reported to be belligerent turn in a note this wacko would cause many pilots to wonder how this person is going to react as the flight goes further out over the Pacific. The person could have a major freakout, get belligerent again, cause all kinds of major headaches for the flight crew and other passengers. When you're over the middle of the ocean, you have limited options. It's probably a close call, but there's nothing beyond the pale to turn back around, if you ask me.

As for NORAD scrambling fighter jets, the article makes it clear the airlines did not request it and also makes it clear that the window for them to making a decision about whether there was a threat and how to respond is very tight. Most likely something suspicious got the attention of NORAD as it monitored air communication and they had to make a quick call about go or no go. Given the criticism they received for the earlier incident, plus the jangled nerves from the Christmas day attack, it was probably a "better safe than sorry" call.

I agree that the penalties for the charge "interference with a flight crew" may seem extreme, but the ones in the article are maximum charges. I have a hard time believing that his sentence would be anywhere near that severe were he to be found guilty. Of course, there's no guarantee that would be the case -- there are always zealous prosecutors. It will be interesting to see what comes of this part of the case in the weeks to come. And yes, hopefully he will get some professional help for his anxiety/impulse control/anger issues.

Maybe that's just my pollyanna take on things, but it seems to me like there are reasonable explanations for each of these "outrageous" reactions. And I say this as someone who racked up enough air miles last year to reach major elite status and deplores the silly security theatre that we have to endure. I also don't like fellow passengers who seem clueless about how to conduct themselves in the public space that is a plane.
posted by cptspalding at 8:04 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just don't see it as extremely unprofessional.

I'm fairly certain that airline management do not want the cabin crew opening & potentially tampering with feedback that is - to a large extent - about the crew's service & performance on the job.

That largely defeats the purpose of trying to collect that sort of feedback in the first place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:18 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


A three hour detour.
posted by cortex at 2:13 PM on January 10


Effing brilliant!

And for the record . . . Maryann all the way. I love brunettes.
posted by kaiseki at 8:18 PM on January 10, 2010


Given the criticism they received for the earlier incident, plus the jangled nerves from the Christmas day attack, [scrambling fighters] was probably a "better safe than sorry" call.

Please explain how jet fighters made this situation even one whit safer?

Please explain how scrambling fighter jets will soothe jangled nerves?

Is "better safe than sorry" America's new motto? No expense or inconvenience is too great if there's even just the appearance that it will keep you safe?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:32 PM on January 10, 2010


I've been wondering what the f15s are supposed to do. This is a flight from Portland to Maui. Presumably they would have been over the Pacific when this incident happened.

Post 9-11, I always guessed the scrambling fighters thing was to allow them to shoot down the passenger jet if it was going to kamikaze into a building or some such.

The only useful thing I can think of them doing is bearing witness to whatever happens to the passenger plane. That is, if it blew up they would watch and possibly record it.

Anyway, the world must be laughing at us if we have to scramble fighter jets and abort every commercial flight when someone won't store their bag and writes something odd on a comment card. It seems a bit much.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:32 PM on January 10, 2010


Looking for a feedback card in my seat...nope dont see one here.
posted by proneSMK at 8:41 PM on January 10, 2010


>> feedback that is - to a large extent - about the crew's service & performance on the job

yeah, maybe you're right. I realize I was kinda reflecting on my own experience with flying -- and I really don't like flying. For me the cabin crew is one of the better parts; they usually seem pretty chill and pleasantly cynical about everything. Perhaps that makes me prone to giving them the benefit of the doubt, I dunno. At any rate, I figured most of the feedback would be about everything other than the cabin crew -- why are we so cramped up in here, what is this Sky Mall bullshit, this push-up is too hard to push up, etc. -- but I'm probably in the minority on that.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:42 PM on January 10, 2010


Yet another reason to avoid American airlines as much as possible. If the horrible service and crappy food wasn't enough reason, that is.
posted by mek at 9:19 PM on January 10, 2010


cptspalding wrote: I agree that the penalties for the charge "interference with a flight crew" may seem extreme, but the ones in the article are maximum charges.

I don't think you quite get it: There should be no charges filed in the first place! The guy didn't do anything wrong.

jason's_planet wrote:
Yes, flying is stressful. And it's even more stressful in close quarters with some drunken mook behind you shouting "WE'RE ALLLLL GONNA DIE!!!!!" when the plane encounters some turbulence.


Straw man much? Nothing in either of the linked articles states that this guy even raised his voice, much less loudly vocalized his fear of flying. He wrote it down. Pretty responsible, compared to other possible reactions.

We've gotten to an insane point. Doing anything that remotely deviates from the norm on an aircraft apparently will land you in jail these days. What utter stupidity.
posted by wierdo at 9:52 PM on January 10, 2010


I am appalled at the level of pure, pants-wetting cowardice that has been cultivated in this country. Cowards like this flight crew shame us all.

I feel like on my next flight I ought to inflate the airsick bag and pop it loudly mid flight, just so all the bed-wetters could have heart attacks and die.


Your comments and closing childlike fantasy do not demonstrate bravery or toughness. Your statements lead me to infer that you display an irrational fear of aviation and that the security lines in particular are especially anxiety provoking. You get stressed out even thinking about standing in line, being delayed or perhaps sitting in a slightly uncomfortable chair for a few hours and we're supposed to believe that you'll suddenly transform into some John McLain/Jack Bauer when OBL pops up from 8A to take over the plane?
posted by humanfont at 11:06 PM on January 10, 2010


What a huge pile of absurdity. I'll allow the pilot his discretion to turn around, even though I personally think it was stupid. The rest is absurd.

Further more, I'll go on record as casting my vote for the Professor, with the caveat that it seems clear to me that would mean a Gilligan sandwich (and sweet) sometimes, and a me-sandwich other times. And I'm quite happy with the idea. I know most folks figure the Skipper was boning Gilligan, but it seems clear to me he was more the sort to be wanking in the bushes, watching the girls bathe.
posted by Goofyy at 11:09 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can't take a picture of whatever you want whenever you want? Terrorists have already won.

No, it's "security people can issue any sort of arbitrary orders they want, and you'd better do it or else." The totalitarians have won.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:27 PM on January 10, 2010


The fighters escort the plane to its landing point. If the plane explodes in flight they can provide a reference point for the recovery team. If the plane goes off course on approach they can take action to minimize ground casualties and damage. Until the plane lands and is secured the only way to know what is happening on board is via the cockpit radio. Who knows if the pilot is actually in control. These actions seem prudent and reasonable.

Also, attacking the professionalism of the crew without citing the specific airline policy seems a bit hasty.Are you sure that airline procedures do not require that the bursar or head flight attendant read any comment cards passed from the passengers while in flight?
posted by humanfont at 12:05 AM on January 11, 2010


He did a slightly stupid thing and they responded with a massive, overwhelming blunder of a stupid thing. Now he's going to jail for their ignorance. I have no idea how all the people who are involved in the authoritarian-response side of these situations live with themselves. How do you keep a straight face when deciding to turn a plane around because of a comment card?
posted by tehloki at 2:12 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, attacking the professionalism of the crew without citing the specific airline policy seems a bit hasty.Are you sure that airline procedures do not require that the bursar or head flight attendant read any comment cards passed from the passengers while in flight?

I'm not absolutely certain, but based on what I've heard about airline market research over a number of years from inside the industry, it's very unlikely that they are actually required, let alone allowed, to read passenger feedback. That information is siphoned upwards towards management, and isn't meant for immediate action. If people want immediate action, they can press their 'attendant' button*.

In fact, reading feedback can allow crew to adjust their behaviour on the spot, leading to skewed research. It really does make a mockery of the entire point of trying to gather this information in even a semi-objective way, and if there's anything that market research values above all else, it's the appearance of scientific objectivity.

* and if that isn't satisfactory, they can write about it - anonymously
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 AM on January 11, 2010


Can't take a picture of whatever you want whenever you want? Terrorists have already won.

No, it's "security people can issue any sort of arbitrary orders they want, and you'd better do it or else." The totalitarians have won.


A perfect example of that principle.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 AM on January 11, 2010


I believe that Mr. Johnson is innocent of the crime of interfering with the performance and duties of an airline crew, but his haircut is a definitely a misdemeanor.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2010


So if the attendant felt threatened with the comment card, I hate to have seen their reaction to my dirty haikus left on the vomit bags.
posted by stormpooper at 6:44 AM on January 11, 2010


We have the no-fly list...
I think we need a "flying too high" list too.
posted by Drasher at 6:51 AM on January 11, 2010


The TSA class of people are drama queens.


When the bottles were opened, two of the screeners smelled a strong chemical odor, complained of nausea and were rushed to a local hospital, where they treated and released, Kern County Sheriff's spokesman Michael Whorf said.


That 'strong chemical odor' - bee vomit. AKA Honey. And for sniffing honey - they went to the hospital.


Another TSAer does one better than think God speaks to him or has a 'personal relationship with God' - "I am God, I’m in charge."
posted by rough ashlar at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2010


The note isn't about blowing up a plane; it's about being afraid of crashing. The guy doesn't even seem particularly "crazy" to me. Here's someone who has hardly ever flown, is taking his first flight over the ocean, is afraid of flying, and is already agitated by not being able to keep his bag beneath his seat -- further evidence of the fact that he's probably not familiar with the etiquette of flying. It sounds like he was just trying to keep himself occupied by doing something no more harmful than filling out the suggestion cards in a restaurant.

Yeah, but it's only hindsight that tells us that "he was just making a really stupid joke". The pilot and flight crew didn't have the benefit of his "holy shit, they READ those things? I just said dumb shit because I was bored" explanation.

Look at it from their perspective: the only information they had available to them was

a) he had already gotten wound up about putting his stuff in the overhead compartment, and
b) he's written a bizarre, rambling note in which he expresses a fear that the plane will spontaneously rip apart in mid-air, and
c) he may think Gilligan's Island was real.

Absent any other information, that points to "someone who's already exhibited angry behavior, who now looks like he may be paranoid and also delusional to boot -- in other words, madder than a box of frogs." And the pilot's playbook for "how to deal with a wack-a-doo passenger" is "turn back and get the guy off the plane".

It's not an "omg he's got a bomb" reaction, it's an "omg the guy's snapped and could hurt other passengers because he thinks they're sharks and he's Fonzie" reaction.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Although, true, getting fighter jets to escort the plane may have been overkill. I will grant you that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on January 11, 2010


"If anything the phrase is just a lazy way to express one's dislike of inconvenience. "

No, that's wrong. The "terrorists have one" phrase is a lazy way to express one's dislike of needless inconvenience born out of irrational fear. Big difference.
posted by majick at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2010


Hah. "Terrorists have one." Apparently I'm as incoherent as the Gilligan Ranter, today.
posted by majick at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2010


First, we don't know how rattled the dude was. Flipping out about a bag, rambling on, and not looking like...well, a guy you'd send your daughter to buy ice cream from, I'm sure he scared some folks. Then he writes a note. I don't think opening the note is unprofessional, especially when dude was already having issues. It could have said the boondock saints prayer, only to be found later among wreckage as some sort of macabre twist to the story.

I'm not saying that's really realistic, I'm saying, I can see the decision. Somewhere over the pacific dude flips bananas and starts wigging out, you want to trust your security to a flight attendant with a can of pepper spray and the concept that tough passengers will step up? Again, dude's probably harmless. They had no way to know if he was coked up or manic or anything. Criminal charges aren't necessary, but I think most people recognize this isn't an acceptable way to behave on an airplane. Especially on an airplane to friggin' Hawaii.

Lastly, I think the scrambling of the jets is SOP for any questioned flight now. I ALSO believe that ground control/NORAD/someone can assume operational control of an airplane remotely, and I'm willing to bet that the fighter planes can help provide eyes on the questioned plane/and/or it's landing/rerouting/etc.

I mean, I would assume a takeover plot would employ a plan to make the flight crew tell ground control that everything was roses, even if it wasn't.
posted by TomMelee at 7:57 AM on January 11, 2010


Sounds like he was just taking the piss to me. Thought the comment card was rather amusing.
posted by mary8nne at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2010


So if the attendant felt threatened with the comment card, I hate to have seen their reaction to my dirty haikus left on the vomit bags.

I think you've been on my flight!

Cannibals in row 6B
Smile seductively
I clutch my peanuts in fear


Also, rereading this: Two flight attendants noted that Johnson was calm and quiet for much of the flight. An attendant also noted that despite the initial luggage flap, he did not raise his voice and ultimately stowed the bag in a bin behind him.

I wonder how much of this was one overzealous flight attendant with poor people skills, and how much was an actual threat. I've always hated working with someone who refuses to de-escalate a situation in favor of showing a passenger "who's boss", mostly because I hate paperwork in addition to power plays. However, given his prior record of fourth degree assault, however, maybe they made the right call.

As for NORAD -- maybe they were just bored? If you had an F-15, wouldn't you want to fly it?
posted by jnaps at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2010


The fighters escort the plane to its landing point. If the plane explodes in flight they can provide a reference point for the recovery team.

I think people just get hung up on the "fighter" part of it, and don't consider that they are the only planes that can catch up to another plane in flight.
posted by smackfu at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you had an F-15, wouldn't you want to fly it

Depends. Is it a September Day?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2010


Clearly the problem is reading comprehension. People who read that note and see "threat" need to go back to school. There was no threat, direct or implied, in that note. I can't imagine how anyone could perceive it differently unless they have trouble parsing plain English sentences.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fault the TSA for not catching the first and most glaring danger sign: the man is from Salem, Oregon. Salem is populated only by thieves, lunatics and perverts.
posted by Skot at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW crazy people acting crazy have been getting aircraft turned back since long before 9/11 and the use of "security theatre" as a descriptor for, apparently, everything.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2010


It's amazing how many people here on MeFi are willing to ignore the article so they can fit this incident into the little box in their head labeled "OK."
posted by wierdo at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2010


Wow, this was like a game of telephone. Read the affadavit. (PDF) It sounds like the captain got a garbled version of the situation from a flight attendant, and that set the whole thing in motion which had to end in an arrest.

You know how bad this was? The "crazy guy" in question didn't even know he was in trouble until they landed.
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2010


Ha, I've been here:
Johnson said he crafted the note well into the flight out of boredom. He didn't buy anything to read at the airport, citing the cost of magazines. He had already read through the airline's in-flight magazine, then the special instructions for the bulkhead emergency exit where he was seated, when he filled out the comment card.
posted by smackfu at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2010


I feel sorry for that man's girlfriend. If it had been me, I would have said I was his ex. Then again, she should have told him how unfunny that was.
posted by anniecat at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2010


In related news: Cleaning crew finds threatening letter on jet.
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on January 11, 2010


Haisong Jiang just wanted to say goodbye to his girlfriend before she boarded a flight back home to California, said friends of the 28-year-old Rutgers University student who last week walked into a secure area of Newark Liberty International Airport
...
He faces a fine of up to $500.
Three words for you, potential romantics:

Fake. Boarding. Pass.

It's not rocket science.
posted by rafter at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2010


Your comments and closing childlike fantasy do not demonstrate bravery or toughness. Your statements lead me to infer that you display an irrational fear of aviation and that the security lines in particular are especially anxiety provoking. ... we're supposed to believe that you'll suddenly transform into some John McLain/Jack Bauer when OBL pops up from 8A to take over the plane?

Actually, with several trips from NY to Japan (14 hours), and India (24 hours) under my belt, there is little about the flying experience that bothers me at all. I do chafe at the ever-increasing inconveniences (for no logical security reason). As far as Jack Bauer scenarios and terrorists in seat 8A - well, I don't think about them too much, because it's NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Even with a million frequent flier miles, the chances of my being involved in a terrorist incident are negligible. The only anxiety I've felt in the security line, was when they were about to make me miss my flight back from Jacksonville due to the (allegedly alarming) X-Ray profile of the change purse in my carry-on.

My last sentence reflects nothing other than my desire to be rid of the sort of people who get the vapors when they have to share the plane with anyone vaguely middle-eastern looking. The method I described has more to do with Dennis the Menace in the back of the class, than with secret agents on a plane.

BTW, do you do this projection thing often?
posted by bashos_frog at 11:00 PM on January 12, 2010


A British man was arrested by anti-terrorism police and suspended from his job after he sent a Twitter message joking that he was going to blow up an airport, a report said on Monday [...]

The 26-year-old was questioned for seven hours by officers who failed to see the joke in his message. He has been bailed to February 11 when he will find out if he will be charged with conspiring to create a bomb hoax.

He has also been suspended from work pending an internal investigation and banned from the airport for life.

Detectives have confiscated his iPhone, laptop and home computer.

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


UbuRoivas wrote: "A British man was arrested by anti-terrorism police and suspended from his job after he sent a Twitter message joking that he was going to blow up an airport, a report said on Monday [...]"

What. The. Fuck?

I vaguely understand not making bomb jokes in an airport, where it could cause a panic, but seriously? Twitter? Banned from the airport for life?

Our overlords need to get a life.
posted by wierdo at 8:59 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"life is what happens when you're not following twitter"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:06 PM on January 18, 2010


I vaguely understand not making bomb jokes in an airport, where it could cause a panic, but seriously? Twitter? Banned from the airport for life?

Yep, this is exactly what happens when you have a gigantic security apparatus scouring Twitter and Facebook feeds for terrorist activity. Wait until people start doing this on other people's iPhones when they're not looking, as a practical joke. LOL you got jailed for someone else's thoughtcrime!
posted by mek at 4:54 AM on January 19, 2010


Terror Status: It's complicated.
posted by Artw at 6:46 AM on January 19, 2010


Three words for you, potential romantics: Fake. Boarding. Pass.

Alright; how do you get one of those without setting off security concerns, though?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2010




Alright; how do you get one of those without setting off security concerns, though?

*coughcoughcough*
posted by mullingitover at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2010


Alright; how do you get one of those without setting off security concerns, though?

*coughcoughcough*


*eyeroll* Having a good printer does you nothing unless you have that can BE printed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 PM on January 21, 2010


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