Profane Hot Mic Rant Lands Southwest Pilot In Hot Water


A  potty-mouthed Southwest pilot who inadvertently broadcast an epithet-laced assessment of the Silicon Valley area, some of its “liberal” residents and their driving preferences is being “dealt with internally” by the airline, a spokesman said on Thursday. The unidentified pilot was apparently sharing his personal views with his fellow pilot on a hot mic as the flight prepared to depart San Jose Mineta International Airport for Seattle on March 12. At one point a ground controller advised of the hot mic but there were a few more pointed remarks after that, followed by a crisp and professional series of readbacks and acknowledgements as the 737 took off for the Northwest. The recorded rant, taken from LiveATC, can be heard here.

Although there was some initial confusion about the source of the transmission, Southwest later claimed the pilot as one of their own and said his comments were an “isolated incident involving a single employee and not representative of the nearly 60,000 hardworking, respectful people of Southwest Airlines.” He was not identified and his fate is unknown, but in addition to the offensive nature of the comments, they were also in violation of the sterile cockpit policy for  critical phases of flight and that caught the attention of the FAA. “FAA regulations prohibit airline pilots from talking about subjects that are unrelated to safely conducting their flight while taxiing and while flying below 10,000 feet altitude,” FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said in a statement. Gregor also said that it was the FAA that reported the incident to the airline.

By the way, we looked it up and the reference to “rolling coal” in the clip concerns reprogramming the engine control computer in diesel pickup trucks to allow more fuel to enter the engine so that when the throttle is depressed the truck emits large clouds of black smoke. It’s sometimes used as a display of environmentalism protest when the truck operators encounter hybrid and electric vehicles on the road.

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    • Claim? The first thing you learn in engineering school is that, when you have more variables than equations, the problem cannot be definitively solved – “determined” is the term, I believe. I suppose that on a planet which has experienced multiple hot flashes and ice ages well before man burned his first CO2-spewing fire, perhaps there can be more than one perspective, and even if there were no controversy or multiplicity of opinions, a little common courtesy among gentlemen might be in order. See Amendment I.

      • Actually, the first thing I learned while pursing my B.S.E.E. was ohm’s law. But to your point, climate science is science, not engineering. Engineering is about developing solutions. Science is about observation and experimentation to determine likely causes. So when it comes to the topic of climate change I will trust the research of actual climate scientists, not arm chair quarterbacks on social media who think sharing a few memes and links from discredited sources makes them experts. Over 97% of published climate scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is real, and the data they publish support their findings, not to mention the the peer reviewing science community has validated their findings. And yes, science is forced to deal with many variables, but they are constantly adjusting their models to address these variables (because it’s research science, not engineering which is an applied science) and while these adjustments do cause variations in the models’ outcomes, the general direction is the same. So after 50+ years of models pointing to increased surface temperatures and recent actual observations validating those models, anyone who still doubts the reality of anthropogenic climate change is blissfully sitting on the left-hand side of the Dunning-Kruger curve. Of course part of this was evidenced by your statement:

        “I suppose that on a planet which has experienced multiple hot flashes and ice ages well before man burned his first CO2-spewing fire”

        Which clearly ignores the fact burning would is a net CO2 neutral action since wood is part of the carbon cycle. See, this is why we should listen to actual credentialed experts.

          • I am not a climate change denier.

            I just don’t think it matters in the big picture or there is anything that can or should be done about it.

            In short I don’t give a rat’s hindquarters.

    • Climate change is real; the theory that co2 has ever driven the changes has been shown to be misguided.

      That aside, the pilot demonstrated that his head was not in the game. Calling Center on Tower freq underscored his lack of attention.

  1. What concerns me are two points: 1) the failure to follow the safety protocol of a sterile cockpit, and 2) the degree of emotional distress this pilot is experiencing that leads him to lose control his emotions. Why is this professional so distressed? Why does he seem to feel so threatened by the issues he mentions? THAT is what Southwest Airlines also needs to address.

  2. I’d be concerned for the passengers on that flight. Such an emotional reaction does not bode well should this flight have encountered a real problem. If that was the F/O, the Captain did not maintain a disciplined flight deck, if that was the Captain, he needs time off and a refresher CRM course.

    • Got a 5.9 Cummins myself. Absolutely love it. The previous owner had the engine control module set ‘way up – to “roll coal.” What a waste. I had it reset to factory and it still puts out 402 HP – at the rear wheels – and no more coal. That stuff just irritates the public and gives the crazies more to legislate away. Too bad we can’t have these heavy Cummins monsters on aircraft; I’d certainly feel safer.

      • My 5.9 will roll coal when I mash on it. Mine gets babied and really needs a cleaning on occasion. During winter months I run cetane boost and an aglicide and that helps keep the injectors clean-er…a 5.9 ISB is a treat to operate. For you “green” police …it gets better then 20mpg year round and will get 14 pulling a 10k trailer load. Never had or needed a tuner box. IMO

  3. There are lots of rednecks in the Aviation business; fewer than there used to be, but still some ignorant unprofessional jerks who feel and act like this person.

    Hopefully, Southwest will encourage this guy to go work as a Mall Cop at a discount mall or somewhere else that his mental capacity and attitudes fit.

    As for the “Rolling Coal” remark; clearly the State he lives in needs to check his vehicle for emissions compliance.

  4. As an ATC kinda guy for 38 years, the SWA rant reminded me of a few similars I have heard throughout the facilities through the years, hopefully when the mikes were not keyed…..usually. Most of our rants were pretty damn funny though whether PC or not. And then there was me. I once recorded an ATIS one hour at LGB. My rant began immediately as I unkeyed the ATIS mike…..or at least thought the mike button unkeyed. Our pilots found it so entertaining that no one mentioned “hey tower. You need to listen to your ATIS” until long after the deed was done.

  5. What we have here is an extreme case of loss of both professional conscience and professional consciousness. His worldview and politics, though not entirely irrelevant are obviously not the paramount concern. He has a right to those. The primary concern is this pilot’s capacity to lose it professionallty during what is arguably the most critical segment of any flight operation. What SWA will need to deal with is whether or not this individual is redeemable and if so how.

    While it would likely be more expedient financially to let him go and replace him, I hope SWA will look at this as a moral responsibility and not give him a pass, but help him rehabilitate himself. The Prius side of me, and yes I’ve been “coal rolled” in a Prius more than once, believes that all human beings are redeemable. Actually, someone in whom the most conservative citizens of this nation, often piously and high handedly claim to believe in invented that notion of universal redeemability a bit over 2000 years ago.

  6. Listened to the recording. Pretty sure I heard 3 things that raised my concern
    1. Missed or ignored hot mike call from tower. Aside from recording your every word the hot mike will interfere with other aircraft transmissions on that frequency.
    2. Hiccup?
    3. At end of recording, when climbing through 2500, seems to have not changed frequencies and called the tower when meant to call departure.

  7. I feel bad for this guy.

    His stress is obviously off the chart and he needs to get that in line. It sucks for him his private misery was broadcast over the air via a stuck mic and then over the world by the interweb but he really has an issue that must be tearing himself up inside.

    He may be a great pilot, but this degree of internal misery is compromising and significant and he needs to come to terms with his anger and place in the world to be a safe pilot.

    With that said I understand some of his contempt but its tearing him up inside and he needs to solve that issue for himself through introspection, rest, prayer, and possibly medical help.