On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, The Flash dug deeply into the seatback pocket and struck gold: a copy of the airline's Chief Pilot's Newsletter, which provided riveting, if not reassuring, reading.
"Before we get carried away in our euphoria," an unnamed pilot writes, "consider that we have had several incidents over the past year that could have turned out disastrously, had our crews been less than alert. Are we perhaps using up all our good luck?"
Is this Southwest? Or South by Southwest?
"Perhaps we have some people in a real hurry," the 26-page newsletter states. "In fact, too big a hurry. . . . Could two crewmembers take off without clearance and never even check the final approach? Do some of our Captains always insist on squeezing around other aircraft rather than waiting a minute or two when it would be much safer and more comfortable? Do some of our Captains always seem to want to do intersection takeoffs, even when they are heavy, where there is no operational reason to do so? Do some of our Captains always fly fast and press the field even though they'll be early? Do we have some Captains who don't follow procedures, and First Officers who let them get away with it? Speed is life. But also sometimes, speed kills."
The newsletter gives advice on how to smooth the ride. ("Now if you want to wake those passengers up and make a few hearts skip a beat, extend the landing gear at 250 KIAS.")
Does anyone have a Valium?
What's a pilot to do about damaged aircraft? Write it down and get it fixed, of course! But make certain you're not covering ground another pilot has already flown over. ". . . there will be a new and improved procedure forthcoming in the next few weeks," the newsletter advises, "to help crews in identifying which dents have previously been inspected. Stay tuned!"
Does anyone have some ether?
A headline jumps out: "Pilots Should Cry Over Spilled Milk." To wit: "Most of the time when liquids are spilled on avionics equipment, a unit will fail with no consequence. But when conditions are right and a necessary unit[s] fails at the wrong time, the situation could become critical," the newsletter states.
Spilled drinks in the cockpit are a big problem, costing United Airlines an estimated $500,000 a year in maintenance costs, the newsletter reports. "Fifty percent of all units are contaminated with sticky sugar from liquids. Many knobs are so contaminated, they won't even turn," it says.
Which way to the parachutes?
Wait, there's more, including technical descriptions of how to keep the tail from striking the ground on takeoffs and landings, and a lecture on taxi procedures at busy airports. The author tells how he recently pulled his plane in front of a small aircraft that was taking off. "I will not make this mistake again," the writer says.
In the understatement of the year, Rod Jones, the airline's assistant chief pilot, explains that the newsletter "is not intended to be left in seatback pockets."
Piece on Earth
This week's lesson in civility and tolerance revolves around Scottsdale Police detective Jeffrey Lorzel, who has been reprimanded by the department for calling an old nemesis "a piece of shit" after encountering the man at his workplace.
"I want the public to know that cops still do this stuff," says Lee Beitman, a bodybuilder, former personal trainer, private investigator and Dirty Dozen wanna-be.
The incident occurred November 1 at the Phoenix Home Depot where Beitman works. According to a Scottsdale Police Department internal investigative report, Lorzel, who was off duty, ran into Beitman, taunted him and made the fecal remark. Lorzel did not return calls seeking comment; he is appealing his punishment.
Lorzel and Beitman go way back, to 1994, the day Beitman got his patch as a member of the Dirty Dozen motorcycle gang. Beitman, who in his private investigative mode had on occasion assisted Scottsdale PD, says Lorzel and Phoenix Police detective Jack Ballantine came to his house that day and warned him that if he didn't act as an informant, the motorcycle gang would be told he was one. Within two weeks, Beitman was booted from the club.
Ballantine denies that Beitman was threatened. "We went to his home to interview him when we found out he was a prospective member of the Dirty Dozen. It was just a matter of finding out who he was," Ballantine says, adding that the cops were concerned about a licensed private eye becoming a member of the notorious gang.
Beitman retaliated by using his PI techniques to find out Lorzel's home address. He then paid Lorzel a visit. "I told him that I was going to sue him and the city for interfering in my personal life," Beitman says. "He stated that he was in fear for his family because I had knowledge of where he lived."