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TinotopiaLog → Why Airlines Suck, Part XXXVIII (12 Nov 2003)
Wednesday 12 November 2003

Why Airlines Suck, Part XXXVIII

A US Airways plane made an emergency landing at Dulles airport on Monday after a landing-gear indicator light malfunctioned, leaving some doubt about whether the wheels on the right side of the plane were fully down and locked.

Most of the information in the Washington Post story about this on Tuesday comes from a guy named David Castelveter. A quick search shows that this guy is quoted in newspapers a lot; his job is to be quoted as an official voice of US Airways.

In the Washington Post, on 11 November 2003, this was the story:

Several passengers said the pilot circled Dulles a few times before touching down on the left-side landing gear. They said that crew members told them the idea was to hit the tarmac with the gear on the left side to jolt the right gear loose. After that, the pilot took the plane up and came back around for a landing, they said.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said the pilot did not perform such a touch-and-go landing. […]

“He did not do a touchdown,” said Castelveter, who said he spoke with the pilot. “He did a flyby, learned that the landing gear was down and landed normally.”

The next day, though, the story was somewhat different. From the Washington Post, 12 November 2003:

The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday confirmed passengers’ accounts that a US Airways pilot made a “touch-and-go” landing at Dulles International Airport to check his landing gear Monday after a warning light indicated that there might be a problem.

A US Airways spokesman, David Castelveter, had denied Monday that the pilot had made such a touchdown before coming around again to land safely. He said yesterday that “there must have been a misunderstanding” between him and the airline officials who gave him the information. […]

Castelveter said he got his information Monday from the airline’s operations center in Pittsburgh. He said he spoke with the operations center again yesterday and was told that the pilot did, in fact, make a touch-and-go landing to check the landing gear.

Note that two things change. Most importantly, the central fact here: on Tuesday, there was no touch-and-go landing. On Wednesday, the airline is willing to admit that there was.

More important, though, is that Castelveter’s stated source for his information changes. I’m willing to accept that he may have got the wrong information at first, and then got more complete and correct information later. But note that in the earlier story, he says that he’d talked to the pilot. We know that this can’t be correct, because he had the wrong story at the time. It’s not like the pilot would have forgotten what had happened. And in the later story, he says that he’d only talked to people at the operations center.

At some point, then, Castelveter — a professional question-asker and communicator — has been caught in a falsehood, and I can’t imagine how it could have been unintentional. Worse, it’s something that doesn’t really matter. Did he talk to the pilot, or didn’t he? It’s hardly a life-or-death question — which further raises the question of why the hell he would lie about it.

My guess is that the airline industry’s culture of ass-covering, truth-bending, and reality-distortion in its dealings with the public is so pervasive, and the airlines are so used to never being called on their lies, that they can’t even tell whether they’re telling the truth or not.

Posted by tino at 21:55 12.11.03
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Airlines bite so do big fat pilots who play cop and “I’m gonna make you miss your flight” guy, just if you talk to them.

Posted by: at October 26, 2005 09:08 PM