Airline Employee Claims He Was Fired for Complaining About Pilot Steering With Knees

Categories: Broward News
Gulfstream Air small.jpg
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Someone steered this with his knee?!
In 2006, Capt. Patrick Hart was deadheading (flying in uniform but not at the helm) on a Gulfstream International Airlines flight from Orlando to Miami when things got a little bumpy.

He said from where he sat in the back of the 19-seater, he could see the small plane's wingtips bouncing erratically against the horizon.

When he walked into the cockpit, he said, he saw the pilot had an unorthodox, possibly hazardous, way of manning the controls.

"He would tap the controls with his knee," he said, or the back of his hand -- something you don't do if you're not on autopilot. 

Hart said other crew members knew about the pilot's habit, though many were too scared to say anything to management. He said smaller airlines employ aspiring pilots, who pay upward of $40,000 to get 250 flight hours under their belts. He said inexperienced pilots are afraid of jeopardizing their careers by complaining. "They won't do a damned thing to lose their $40,000 investment," he said.

Hart said when he complained to management, he lost his job. He filed suit in 2007 under Florida's Whistleblower Act.

"I step up to the plate, and I get my head chopped off," he said as he and Capt. Kenny Edwards, a plaintiff in another whistleblower suit against the company, waited for the jury to deliver a verdict Tuesday afternoon.

Gulfstream International Airlines did not return several calls requesting comment. The airline filed for bankruptcy in 2010. In May, Chicago-based asset management firm Victory Park Capital bought the Fort Lauderdale-based carrier. The airline flies to several Bahamas destinations and shuttles some state lawmakers to and from Tallahassee during session.

The jury was still in deliberations this afternoon. A verdict is expected Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

Update: the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff Wednesday afternoon.

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This deadheading pilot obviously has very little experience in the cockpit, should have minded his own business and not have attempted to interfere with the flight crew. Maintaining attitude control with your knee is preferred in turbulence to prevent over control of aircraft. This pilot who was a passenger probably flies with a death grip on the controls which is exactly what NOT to do in rough air. Airline was most likely justified in termination.


As a professional pilot for 20 years, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever read.

Roger Kuo
Roger Kuo

Remember that the next time you fly and your pilot loses control of the plane because he was steering with his knees. You'll be thankful no one "snitched" on the pilot as you plummet to your death.


Depends on what you're snitching on. If it is literally putting other people in in this case...then it isn't only acceptable, but proper as well.

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