Qantas pilot ban after drinking session

Discussion in 'Qantas Airways | Frequent Flyer' started by Chimpy, Jul 9, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Chimpy
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    Chimpy Gold Member

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    A QANTAS pilot has been banned from flying after going on a seven-hour bender in Buenos Aires the day before he was due to fly back to Australia.

    Over seven hours Second Officer Jeremy Hackett partied on with another pilot, drinking beer, wine and grappa, until the other officer became concerned he was delusional and suicidal.

    He was snarling and ranting about the occult, death, apocalypse and his demons.

    First Officer Simon Redhead made a series of urgent calls to Australia and after Qantas doctors were consulted, Mr Hackett, from Newcastle, was stood down from flying.

    The following day, March 24, 2010, Mr Hackett was flown back from the Argentine capital to Sydney as a passenger on the flight he should have been operating with a psychologist by his side.

    The Civil Aviation Safety Authority suspended Mr Hackett's medical certificates in April last year, but after an appeal in October he was allowed to fly under certain conditions.
    [The rest can be found here]

    Sounds like he had a good time :)
    sobore, Tim O'Brien, Horse and 7 others like this.
  2. Kaanapali
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    Kaanapali Gold Member

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    Please tell me that the certain conditions did not include a 7 hour drinking session the day before scheduled to pilot back? :eek::rolleyes:
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  3. secretsea18
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    secretsea18 Gold Member

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    Sounds like Qantas exhibited good judgement (something that pilot lacks) in revoking his medical certificate.
  4. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    The rules about drinking before flying are incredibly strict, with time limits, etc. between when you drink and when you fly. It's not like drinking and driving, where for some reason the drunk person is expected to make a judgment call. My dad is very serious about this before he flies his small planes, and he's not taking paying passengers. Qantas made the right move.
    Chimpy and Lufthansa Flyer like this.
  5. Just a couple of points: 1) Qantas doesn't revoke medical certificates, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) does. 2) If you look into this, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal actually found in the pilot's favour and reduced or removed many of the conditions CASA had placed on his medical certificate. 3) Why did Qantas stand this guy down solely on the basis of phone calls from the other pilot he was "partying on with"? Where was the scrutiny on the First Officer who had been his drinking partner and was still allowed to operate the flight home? 4) I checked out this guy's band, "The Dread Sky" on MySpace - some of the songs make for very interesting listening, especially "The Pilot" which is referred to in the newspaper article, and also "Stark Raving Sane" which appears to have been written about this actual event. 5) I'm all for a safe flying culture but we need to be very careful we don't endorse a system where one drunk guy can call up his employer during time off and have a fellow employee stood down with no independent assessment.
    Chimpy, Tim O'Brien and hulagrrl210 like this.
  6. hulagrrl210
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    hulagrrl210 Gold Member

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    8 hours "bottle to throttle" and .04 is the legal limit. FAR 91.17. I assume international ICAO rules are more or less the same.

    As SkyBlue mentioned Qantas isn't the authority who pulled the guy's medical, although I am surprised he got it back. Once you lose one, it can be VERY hard to get back on appeal.
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  7. There was never any question of this guy being intoxicated when due to operate - this occurred on the first night (and into the next morning) of a two night layover - it was about 30 hours from when he stopped drinking to when his flight was due out. Again, if you read the Administrative Appeals Tribunal's findings, which are on the public record, he was stood down by Qantas because the First Officer he was drinking with rang Qantas and told them he was delusional and suicidal, based on topics of conversation that they were having. Qantas subsequently referred him to a psychiatrist who reported no indication of any mental problem. Despite this, CASA's original suspension of his medical certificate was on grounds of mental illness. When the pilot appealed the decision with the AAT (and before the case was actually heard) CASA reinstated his medical certificate but placed conditions on it with regard to monitoring for problematic use of alcohol.
    hulagrrl210 is right that it is very difficult to get a medical back from CASA once they've taken it away - it was only by taking CASA to the AAT that this guy managed to achieve it, albeit with some fairly onerous conditions still attached.
    The journalist who wrote the newspaper article obviously got the information from the AAT's website, since the finding was only handed down at the end of June and the actual incident occurred over a year ago. A headline like "Qantas pilot stood down after bender" is obviously much catchier than "Qantas pilot has medical certificate reinstated after taking CASA to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal".
  8. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP. You have a beautiful blue avatar.
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  9. Hackett's problem was that he was discussing issues with a man (Redhead) not well read, who did not comprehend many of the subjects Hackett was exploring. Redhead admitted to the AAT that he had not read "Alice in Wonderland". That is why he did not understand Hackett's references to "going down the rabbit hole" and similar.This problem was compounded when Redhead, in his apparently inebriated state, telephoned a Qantas union rep in Australia to report his opinion that Hackett was delusional. This rep then made a judgement beyond his expertise, and based on Redhead's apparently obviously alcohol affected statements, that Hackett had a problem. This lead to Hackett being stood down before being examined by a competent person and with no opportunity to make his case. The reason given to the AAT for this precipitous action was "operational expediency".

    Redhead instead should have contacted the aircraft captain (who was in the same hotel as the crew) and left him to judge the appropriate course. The captain stated to the AAT that when he was finally called by Qantas Australia to see Hackett in the hotel there was no evidence of any behaviour that would have caused the captain to stop Hackett from crewing back to Australia 30 hours later, that Hackett was fully lucid. However, by that time, Qantas Australia had stood Hackett down already .

    Notwithstanding all subsequent medical and other reports showing Hackett had no mental or health problems, CASA continued to hound Hackett, repeatedly moving the goal posts by changing the conditions on his licence in an apparent attempt to justify its actions. Qantas seems to have been complicit in these actions because it seems to have failed to take any meaningful action towards its duty of care for Hackett as an employee. It allowed Hackett to be hung out to dry for what one of its staff stated to the AAT to be operational reasons. The Qantas union apparently also failed to take meaningful action to support Hackett. One wonders whether this failure by the union to fully support Hackett was because one of its officials had made the original knee-jerk judgement call?

    The AAT stated that because Hackett had proved his case, the AAT was refunding his application fee. Notwithstanding, the AAT decided to impose medical conditions on Hackett's licence. Why, only the AAT knows, but possibly as a sop to CASA which made much of its omnipotency during the hearing! A close reading of the transcripts of the hearing clearly seem to show that all inferences to Hackett having any problem are unsupported allegations. On the other hand, all medical and other competent reports about Hackett show he has no problem.

    When will the hounding of Hackett stop?

    What will it take for the Qantas and CASA to put in place procedures to prevent a repeat of Chinese whispers destroying the reputation and livelihood of innocent people like Hackett. Once the wheels started turning, Hackett was impotent to stop them. Too many people needed to justify their decisions and reputations. Justice, as is usually the case, was sacrificed.

    Hackett has taken leave without pay from Qantas. He needs to work. CASA's actions caused Hackett to lose about 9 months work, involving using all his sick leave and recreation leave entitlements. The stress on him, his wife and his two small children has been huge.

    Good luck to you, Hackett!
  10. bluesky
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    bluesky Gold Member

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    It sounds like a sensible precaution - a temporary stand-down without prejudice, pending further information - turned into a denial of natural justice and an inability to change official opinion when the facts change.

    Nasty for him.
    MSPeconomist likes this.

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