Gun carrying jetBlue pilot in hot water after embarrassing backpack incident

jetblue gun backpackIn what can only be described as a monumental screwup, a pilot for jetBlue managed to lose sight of his federally issued gun, and spent the next 40 minutes trying to locate it.

The pilot in question, Michael Connery Jr. was boarding his plane when he set his backpack down to chat with a fellow crew member. In the boarding process, a passenger on a different flight picked up her own bags, and accidentally grabbed Connery’s backpack as well.

Packed inside that backpack was a 40 caliber handgun – issued as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, operated by the TSA.

Once the passenger realized the bag was not hers, she set it down on an empty seat on her plane. Another passenger pointed the unaccompanied backpack out to a crew member, who alerted the authorities. Meanwhile, Connery had already delayed his own flight while he tried to locate the backpack – taking 40 minutes to contact the airline to the incident.

Once he got his bag back, TSA officials confiscated his gun while they conducted their investigation.

While the armed flight officer program may be a good idea on paper, simple mistakes like this show how easy it is to completely defeat all security measures at the airport. Had the plane with the backpack departed on time, a gun could have been on its way to Florida in the hands of a random stranger.

Nutty flight attendant Slater leaves JetBlue, claims he wasn’t fired

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For JetBlue, at least, the Steven Slater saga appears to be finished. The flight attendant who couldn’t handle his passenger safety cart-pushing responsibilities any longer resigned from JetBlue last week, according to his attorney. Initially, the delusional employee wanted his old job back. JetBlue has said that Slater is no longer an employee but didn’t mention whose choice it was.

Following his ride to fame down the emergency slide, Slater was suspended by JetBlue, which was planning to investigate. Internally, the company referred to Slater as being as “dangerous as a gun.”

This is the end of a career that may have lasted two decades, depending on how much of Slater’s math you trust, and he spent the last three years at JetBlue.

Of course, Slater isn’t out of the woods yet. The flight attendant, lauded by airline employees as a show of customer contempt envy and solidarity, still has to contend with criminal charges, including criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. His next court date is today.

Ask Gadling: Does it really cost $25,000 to repack an airplane evacuation slide?

This question is obviously triggered after the JetBlue incident last week – when Steven Slater deployed the emergency slide, the media claimed the damage was around $25,000 just to repack the slide.

So, I did a bit of research, and contacted a friend who actually manages a large international airline. The answer was quite surprising – $25,000 is on the very, very cheap side.

To get the deployed slide back to its usable condition, they don’t just roll it up, they actually have to deflate it and remove the entire slide assembly from the door of the plane, load it into a truck and bring it to a certified maintenance facility.

Most large airlines will have a couple of spare slides, so they can replace the deployed slide relatively quickly, but they can’t use the plane until it has operational slides. The deployed slide has to be inflated again and checked for any leaks – then it is professionally repacked, and its inflation canister is re-pressurized or replaced. Only after it has been fully inspected can it be put aside while the airline waits for the next incident that requires a new slide.

The total damage on a commercial jet can be as much as $50,000. This includes the cost of replacing the slide, and the time lost when the jet is out of service. If the airline is lucky, the plane will be close to a facility that can replace it, in the worst case, they need to load a replacement slide onto another plane and ferry it in, along with a maintenance crew.

So there you have it – an evacuation slide is quite a bit more complex than the moon bounce at the local Chuck E. Cheese.

[Photo from: Flickr / Joel Franusic]