Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Former flight attendant jailed for endangering aircraft

Joseph Hemmingway
Photo: Northumbria Police

A former flight attendant caused terror on a plane when he told cabin crew he wanted to end his life before trying to open the rear door of the aircraft.

Joseph Hemmingway, 28, was on a Jet 2 flight from Madeira to Newcastle and had been drinking heavily when he started behaving erratically leaving passengers 'scared for their lives'.

Hemmingway had told airline staff that he used to work for British Airways and they were petrified he would succeed in opening the airplane's door because of his aviation knowledge.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that Hemmingway had started chatting to experienced cabin crew, who 'had never been as scared and shocked', about his former work half way through the flight on August 4.

Around ten minutes later he approached the rear of the plane and told two female members of the crew that he wanted to move seats as his neighbors were watching a TV show which showed people taking crystal meth.

Hemmingway said this was offending him as his boyfriend had died as a result of taking the drug.

He then showed the women a letter from his backpack which was addressed to his boyfriend Lee and it said he wanted to "join him".

Cabin crew then saw him take at least three and possibly six Valium tablets and swallow them.

Alarmed, they made the pilot aware that they had a problem with a passenger on board.

Hemmingway then drank from the cabin crew's water bottles and told them that he had AIDS.

After trying to get to the cockpit to speak to the pilot, Hemmingway attempted to open the rear door of the plane and terrified crew were concerned that his flight experience would mean he would succeed.

An off duty police officer on board, who was returning from a family holiday, then wrestled Hemmingway to the ground and restrained him with the help of another male passenger.

Claire Anderson, prosecuting, said: "This happened with around 15 minutes until landing. In high altitudes, it is impossible to open the plane door but the plane was descending and therefore in low altitudes. With his experience, there was a real concern."

Another off duty police officer stepped in to help restrain Hemmingway but he then tried to bite them.

Despite the fact that Hemmingway and those who were restraining him were out of their seats, the pilot made the decision to land the plane. Police were waiting on the tarmac and Hemmingway was arrested.

Mr Hemmingway admitted that he had drank a litre of beer or wine before boarding and then had drank Prosecco on the plane but denied that this was an excessive amount.

He also denied that he had tried to open the plane door and said that because he had a backpack and was of ethnic appearance, people must have overreacted." – CLAIRE ANDERSON, PROSECUTING

However, on August 18, Hemmingway pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft at Newcastle Magistrates' Court.

Miss Anderson said: "In relation to the cabin crew, they all very experienced but they stated that they had never been so scared and shocked.

"Some staff are now wary of talking to passengers who speak to them on board.

"With regard to the civilians, they were terrified. They were scared for their lives.

"The wife of one of the off duty police officers said that it sent shivers down her spine and that it would take a lot of time for her to get her confidence back when it comes to flying."

There was remorse demonstrated and he has a low risk of future offending. It must have been terrifying and there is no way to get away from that.

The fact that there was no injury caused is a bonus but that does not take away from the fact that passengers and crew would have found this experience frightening." – CHARLES KNOWLES, DEFENDING

Mr. Knowles said that due to the loss of his partner among other issues such as suffering from AIDS and Asperger's Syndrome, Hemmingway uses alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism and that is what caused this meltdown.

Mr.  Knowles added: "He is genuinely remorseful for what he has done and it was totally out of character.

"He is looking forward to being able to deal with the problems he has had and put them behind him."

Judge Edward Bindloss jailed Hemmingway, of Heaton Road, Newcastle, for 18 months. He was ordered to pay £180 court costs and £100 victim surcharge.
The cabin crew have said that this was a harrowing and traumatic experience for them. One said she had never been so scared in her life.

I have to take into account several things such as the fact that you are HIV positive and attempted to bite people.

The passengers and crew could not escape you. Flying is stressful enough without this sort of incident for these people returning from their holidays.

Considering all these matters, it seems to me that an immediate custodial sentence can be justified."


Story and photo: http://www.itv.com

Even pilots sometimes have to picket

 Pilots picketing outside Ruan Center in Des Moines Monday.

Here’s a sight you don’t often see in the financial power centers of downtown Des Moines: Marchers in business suits and ties carrying picket signs. But there they were Monday, looping continuously outside the high-rise Ruan Center, where captains of industry gaze out on the city skyline, and the elite dine in members-only serenity and splendor.

As labor protests go, it was classy. The picketers carried printed signs with fancy fonts and logos. A truck with changing graphics on its side drove around the block carrying the same message. But these marchers are well schooled in class. They're airline pilots, delivering the wealthiest on private jets to meetings, vacations, shopping, ski trips, tournaments or wherever else imagination might lead their clients.

Working for a company called NetJets, which owns the largest fleet of "fractional" (jointly owned) jets in the world, they might fly as far as China or as close as a 30-minute jaunt. Asked if the clients are multimillionaires, union Vice President Paulette Gilbert replied,  “At a minimum.” That entitles them to smoke on board, sip wines chosen by Wine Spectator experts, and dine on dishes they chose from local restaurants. They can take along uncaged pets of various sorts.

“This means NetJets pilots have direct contact with animal hair, feathers, etc.,” says a NetJets website section on employment. “Every passenger on board a NetJets flight receives first-rate service — even if that passenger happens to be a Jack Russell,” the web site boasts.

But the 2,700-plus pilots, who belong to the NJASAP (NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots) union feel while everyone else gets pampered, they get the short shrift. They’ve been working without a contract since 2013, and are in mediation talks. They say the management is seeking “deep concessions” in salary, health and other benefits. They declined to offer specifics, citing the mediation process, but say their wages and benefits have scarcely kept pace with inflation. Union President Pedro Leroux told Fox News that after 10 years, he makes in the lower $90,000 range and can work up to 98 hours at a stretch during the seven-day on, seven-day off rotation. He said Netjets pilots earn 40 percent less than counterparts at the large commercial airlines and that more than 30 percent are looking to leave.

NetJets is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, so the standoff might surprise people who recall CEO Warren Buffett calling to raise taxes on people earning a million dollars or more. Asked by Fox News about these pilots, Buffett said their pay averages $145,000 a year, and the pilots happy with their schedules.

NJASAP’s website says Buffett and Vice Chairman Charles Munger have emphasized the value of "dedication, passion and trustworthiness, among other attributes." A union ad placed in some media says increasing health care costs “may be the trendy thing to do in the CEO club, but it is not the Warren Buffett way.”

“The company has said in its news releases and filings that they are profitable. There’s a return on income,”  NJASAP spokeswoman Elizabeth Lykins told me. “They’re taking delivery of aircraft." But they’re negotiating, she said, “as if we’re in a terrible financial predicament.”

The union says there were four years of bad blood with former NetJets CEO Jordan Hansell, a Des Moines native who left the company in June.  Negotiations have since resumed, but the pilots are frustrated because they say the company refuses to disclose even who is on its board of directors. They believe Greg Abel of Des Moines, who runs Berkshire Hathaway Energy, is a NetJets board member along with NetJets CEO Adam Johnson and COO Bill Noe, and two others whose identities they do not know. But the CEO and COO refuse to confirm that or identify the two others, and my calls to spokespeople for Abel in Des Moines and NetJets in Columbus were not returned.

It was the Abel connection that brought the pilots to Des Moines on Monday. In a full-page ad in this newspaper, the union wrote: “Greg Abel: Pilot Negotiators need to know who is pulling the strings at NetJets.”

NetJets claims on its website to have moved further in talks with the union this summer than in the last two years, despite missing a targeted Sept. 3 deadline. But it says the sides are still far apart on pay and benefits “due to the parties’ views about the economics of this business — and thus how much additional cost we can take on over the next decade — as well as different expectations concerning the demand for the services we provide. … We’re a unique company that needs to reinvest in its brand.”

But the union says that brand has been built up over a decade by its employees, and that the company's focus on “short-term profits” has been detrimental.

Without knowing specifics, it's impossible to say whose case has more merit. But it does seem strange for a company to withhold information from employees about its board membership. Given the strenuous, skilled work they do, the pilots' pay is hardly lavish. And at a time of diminishing labor clout, it's refreshing to see them taking to the street — politely, of course — to ask for what they feel they deserve.

Story and photos:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com

  Captain Jeff Stein, NJASAP Strike Prep Co-Chair in Des Moines Monday.