View Full Version : Brit Captain in trouble in Milan?

Ranger One
25th Jun 2001, 21:43
Maybe I've missed the thread, but I'm surprised this hasn't made it to R&N:

From the BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_1393000/1393374.stm

Pilot's smoking protest sparks legal action

Italian police have started legal
proceedings against a British airline
pilot who prevented 140 passengers
from disembarking because someone
had been smoking in the toilet.

Passengers on the flight from
Stansted to Milan on Sunday were
told on arrival by Brian Bliss that one
of them had endangered the safety of
the aircraft.

He demanded the culprit own up but
no one did and 40 minutes later
police boarded, let the passengers go
and asked Captain Bliss for an

A police spokesman said criminal
proceedings were being started
against him for using unnecessary

Thoughts folks? OK the smoker is an idiot of the first order, but the captain sounds distinctly OTT to me... poor chap had probably had the alarm go off three times per sector for the last week and had had enough... any idea how the airline (which airline?) are handling the situation?

Various obvious cans of worms opened here... captains authority, police boarding (were they invited?) - would like to hear a lot more facts about this incident.

25th Jun 2001, 21:55
The big airlines have procedures for that kind of stuff.

Sounds like this captain was inventing his own procedures.

Yup, a little Over The Top.

Men, this is no drill...

25th Jun 2001, 21:57
The incident happened almost 3 years ago, July 27 1998. Airline was Go.
It's just the court case that's starting now.

Ranger One
25th Jun 2001, 22:03
Thanks PT... doh! Can't even trust the beeb these days... on my reading of the article it's 'clear' that the incident happened yesterday...!

Explains why I didn't find a thread when I did I search on the last few days... question still stands; what DID GO do to the captain involved?

<mumbles about journos and goes off to search the archives>

25th Jun 2001, 23:57
I had a situation sort of like that with a bunch of college kids on spring break.

We were a last minute equipment change (JFK/CUN) and therefore had to make a fuel stop in Sanford, Fla.

As the refuelling was going on, the F/E and myself smelled cigarette smoke coming into the cockpit from the cabin. (The pax were remaing on board.

My initial plan was to go back and cleverly ask them to stop smoking, as we were almost ready to go, and Cancun was only another 50 minutes away.

But when I got back to where the smoke was, I noticed several cigarettes ground out on the carpet. (they didn't even use the ashtrays) Since no one would 'fess up, I decided to put everyone off. They wouldn't go, so I had to call for police intervention.

I explained to the tour leader that when whoever was smoking fessed up, they would stay behind and everyone else could go on with us, but they had to find the persons within 15 minutes or we would be out of duty time and then no one would go.

No one owned up to smoking, but one poor girl pointed one of the guys out to a cop, who told me, so I left him and took everyone else. This guy then had the ba!!s to say he wasn't the only one and it wasn't fair. I told him to tell me who the others were so then he could have some company.

The tour director wanted to know what to do and I told him to tell the other offenders who weren't caught to hand over $100 each to his buddy who was caught so he could buy a ticket to join the group the next day.

In the USA smoking on the a/c is a federal offense, so there's a little more leverage than other places where it may only be a company policy.

26th Jun 2001, 00:05
re GO Captain, here is the original news


(Monday, July 27, 1998 )

26th Jun 2001, 00:14
What a great thread!
Perhaps we should start a competition for the best story of an OTT action by a Captain. :rolleyes:
I can't think of anything even near either of these two stories at the moment.

26th Jun 2001, 11:51
Virgin, it is easy to sit back with a smug laugh at the "OTT" actions of others. Lets all hope that all your pax are angels and you never have to make such a decision

26th Jun 2001, 13:17

Appreciate your comments and people will not be angels all the time. But you should step back and analyse the situation at the time

This Captain refused 148 fare paying passengers(those people who pay his wages) the right to disembark in an attempt to find one person who had committed an anti-social act smoking. After 40 minutes he released them without catching the offender.

Did he think he was a school teacher in charge of classroom where the whole class is given detention for the action of one person. He made a judgement call on the day that was a bad one now it would appear that it is time to pay.

26th Jun 2001, 15:06
I think the news story is an old one - don't know why the BBC doesn't date its news but makes old stories look current - but the legal action against the pilot in Milan was dropped.

26th Jun 2001, 16:18
I have stopped smoking long ago now, and it's why I feel free to question as follow:
From the beginning of the commercial aviation, until the late 80, millions of flights have been done, with aircrafts closely similars to the ones that are flying today, with almost the whole passengers allowed to smoke, and I have never heard (perhaps misinformation) of even one accident involving a smoking passenger.So, while the only offense of the smokers is the desagrements of other pax, why so hysterical OTT reactions of the crew?

[This message has been edited by MGloff (edited 26 June 2001).]

Few Cloudy
26th Jun 2001, 17:06
Depends what you are trying to achieve - If you let everyone go, you will never nail the culprit.

We had a brand new 737 at AMS which had the toilet mirror vandalized in flight by a diamond - huge rude letters right across. The captain let everyone off. I think I would have had the police come first - strapping big Dutchmen with holsters - just to make the point.

But there - Captain is paid to make decisions to the best of his judgement.

Gonna have to edit this - Mc Gloff haven't you heard of any crashes caused by toilet waste fires then?

[This message has been edited by Few Cloudy (edited 26 June 2001).]

Lord Fulmer
26th Jun 2001, 17:34
MGloff, yup you are partly correct, but from what I understand, since smoking has been banned, it is not the act of smoking that is unsafe, but the fashion in which it is done.
Now it has to be done in secret, i.e. in the toilets, the safety issue is where to conceal the offending cigarette butt , lit or unlit , to avoid detection, and also the associated destruction of smoke detectors etc. to avoid being caught in the first place!

Ranger One
26th Jun 2001, 18:37
Interesting thoughts... the more I think about it, the more I think the captain in this case made a fairly serious error. Engineer put it very well.

A captain, rightly and necessarily, has the final authority on their aircraft. It's important that this is not seen to be abused, and imposing a schoolteacher-type collective punishment is an abuse, IMHO. Leave the business of catching & punishing the culprit to the authorities... whatever your opinion of their efficiency, they are professionals at their job just as you are at yours.

FWIW, if I had been on that flight (as a fare-paying pax, not deadheading) I would have been strongly tempted to open the door myself, if safe to do so, and bring charges of assault and false imprisonment against anyone who tried to stop me.

I understand his frustration at the smoking situation, but did the captain in this case, I wonder, pause to consider that his actions in detaining the entire planeload could easily have resulted in an air rage scenario which would be much more serious than the original smoking issue? I'd like to hear some input from cabin crew on how they would have felt about having to enforce such orders from the captain...

26th Jun 2001, 19:36

My memory is my second shortest thing these days but wasn't there an Air India 747 that went down in the Atlantic years ago the cause being put down to somking in the toilets? Maybe it was Air Canada???

26th Jun 2001, 19:47

I think you'll find that the Air India 747 went down due to a bomb by Sikh nationalist terrorists. The RCMP has finally arrested a suspect and the trial is pending. It was n't somking, or even smoking, in the toilets !!!

26th Jun 2001, 19:49
There may very well have been smoke in the toilet of the Air India 747, probably caused by a bomb going off in the hold.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">haven't you heard of any crashes caused by toilet waste fires then?</font>
2 IIRC - AF at ORY, AC at CVG neither of which was ever attributed to cigarette butts. The US NTSB is quite convinced the AC fire was caused by a shorted flush motor. AF fire source is still undetermined AFAIK.

Back to the thread....
What would have happened if I as a pax had 'confessed' (falsely) just to stop the nonsense, and then recanted ?

[This message has been edited by PaperTiger (edited 26 June 2001).]

26th Jun 2001, 20:24
Maybe Captain would have let rest of passanger disembark called police but here is the rub. Rest of passengers complain of Captain's action holding them on aircraft.

As stated before a judgement call at the time which was wrong. Maybe like any unruly passenger as we constantly hear of today he should have notified the police immediately. Let the appropriate authority deal with the situation.

Within the law just how much power does a commander have and when is he relinquished of that power?

26th Jun 2001, 21:06
I agree with Ranger One - if I had been on that flight, I would do my utmost to bring charges of false imprisonment.. it was a ridiculous abuse of position and if this had happened anywhere else, anyone holding passengers against their will would be dismissed on the spot, and rightly so.

Also, if the man was that self important and pompous, I would have to question his ability to work an emergency with the FO. Talking of which, I wonder what, if anything, the FO said to challenge the Captain's apparent departure from sanity.

Ranting aside, I think probably the best solution to smokers in the loo would be to put sprinklers in there ! :)

26th Jun 2001, 22:00
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Question
Within the law just how much power does a commander have and when is he relinquished of that power? </font>

If it is a British-registered aircraft (as in this case) the commander's powers are considerable, as contained in the Civil Aviaition Act 1982 and Air Navigation Order (2) 1995. I'm no lawyer but absent 'imminent danger', once the flight is complete I would expect the laws of the destination country then take precedence. This captain was charged with or at least accused of breaking an Italian law pertaining to unlawful detention (sic).

There is an article ex-Hansard which I found on the web. Long but thought-provoking IMO.
http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199899/cmselect/cmenvtra /275/275ap36.htm (http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199899/cmselect/cmenvtra/275/275ap36.htm)

[This message has been edited by PaperTiger (edited 26 June 2001).]

26th Jun 2001, 22:42
Thanks PT looks like the guy was out of his jurisdiction aircraft on the blocks and in a foreign country. Maybe anengineer has got a point


27th Jun 2001, 12:59
My laughter wasn't 'smug' at all. I laughed because I just couldn't believe either of the Captains could have behaved in such an OTT way - for the reasons given by others who've added their comments.

As for you hoping I "never have to make such a decision" ...... Are you serious?
What decision is so difficult?
There's no decision to be made.

Haulin' Trash
27th Jun 2001, 13:50
Talking of ill thought out actions, anyone remember the Trident Capt (late 70's early 80's?) who was refused his breakfast prior to take off by the Purser at EGLL. Returned to stand and caused a significant delay whilst it was sorted out. Wonder if he's still flying with the Hounslow Flying Club - maybe even a PPRuNer?

27th Jun 2001, 20:15
On Nov 11, 1973 a Varig 707 made a forced landing at Paris Orly. The aircraft was put down in an open field because an in flight fire was getting out of hand and the crew did not think they could make it to the airport. The suspicion was that a passenger was smoking in the lavatory and had put their cigarette in the waste bin, I believe this accident was the reason why smoke alarms and waste bin extinguishers were mandated in the toilets of commercial passenger transports.


Jorge Newberry
27th Jun 2001, 21:14
From my perspective as a passenger I have to say that I have a certain degree of sympathy the captain. Just how are the cabin crew supposed to prevent people smoking in the toilets if they are really determined to?

I recently flew from Rome to Buenos Aires with Alitalia. Things were okay for the the first two or three hours but after that it was quite obvious from the smell that some of my fellow travellers were going to the bog for a quick fag. This led to repeated "reminders" of the ban on smoking on the PA and the crew continually checking the toilets, as much I suppose to make sure that we all weren't going to be incinerated as in any hope of nabbing one of the culprits.

What to do?

I'm inclined to think that as there is no way to stop addicts dosing themselves, perhaps, and I say this through gritted teeth, allowing them to do this in an orderly fashion might be the lesser evil

[This message has been edited by Jorge Newberry (edited 27 June 2001).]

28th Jun 2001, 00:03
This captain is right in stating that the safety of the flight was affected by the offender smoking in the toilet.

The offender was not identified and as such he had a weak argument in keeping all pax on board.

If now the spin-off of this court-case could be the installation of cameras or another system that start when the smoke alarm is triggered to enable to identify the offender the this captains actions served all of us.

Over the top; maybe; but definitely, in case of doubth he deserves our support.

Smooth Trimmer

Morse Code
28th Jun 2001, 02:24
There were good old days when smokers walked free..... I'm of the opinion that there must be a smokers room in every airplane probably a lav converted for the purpose.
Toilet flush liquid is inflammable and it's only a disaster waiting to happen as some passengers are not educated enough to understand the facts.That is the reason regulations demand the toilets be fitted with smoke detectors.
Airlines are forgetting they still are in the hospitality business and no smoking regulations on board are causing more problems than one.

28th Jun 2001, 03:21
Surley not beyond the wit of man to devise safe smoking system (smoking sub compartment perhaps). In view of the remarkable PROVEN safety record of previous smoking on aircraft only logical conclusion is that the 'majority' want to stuff thier opinion down the tortured throat of these harmless junkies - opinionated, arrogant, sheep. Same people who drive in mid lane at 60 with fog lights on cos of rain - pathetic IMO.

As for: 'hope you don't have to face such a daunting decision'. 4 christs sake man! What would happen if you ever had to decide more than which of the 2 available meals you were going to choose. Terrifying!

Thank god for sane perspective of McGloff and Virgin..

28th Jun 2001, 05:04
Couple of things that have made me think. Firstly I started looking after "walking cargo" in the days when smoking was still the done thing, and the number of times on a night flight a pax has fallen asleep with a lit cig, it was only a serious accident waiting to happen. Here in the UK , it is only an offence under the ANO to smoke in a part of the A/C that has been designated non smoking [for the most part that is all of the A/C] however I still do get flights that are designated smoking flights from the UK. and even on those, pax still insist on smoking in the toilets. With regards to the capt who kept the pax on, Ok maybe he was a little OTT, but we dont really know the full circumstances, ie how many times had it happened, did he seek police assitance and it was refused, or simply was he hoping somebody would shop the offender.

I have had smokers onboard many times, some just involve a simple "telling off" others get the "captains letter" treatment, however I have had 1 or 2 persistant offenders who thought they were untouchable, but they were wrong. Not only do they get met by the authorities but if it is on an outbound flight, they get refused return carriage, and the smug grin is soon wiped off.

Smoking on an A/C in secret is dangerous and the offenders should be sought and dealt with, but at what cost really is up to the crew and the cirumstances on the day, as I am sure this capt thought he was making the right decision in his circumstances

B Sousa
28th Jun 2001, 06:26
Ive never heard of a major carrier losing an Aircraft from a smoker. I have heard of many lost by an Idiot Captain. This guy should be relagated to instructing in a C150...

28th Jun 2001, 07:36
Recall years ago when SV (Royal decree) banned smoking on domestic flights. A Saudi in F/C on my flight to DHA lit up and gave the finger to the purser. Notified DHA ops that security was needed upon arrival.
When the door was opened, two security types entered, grabbed the guy by the ankles and hauled him down the boarding steps, head bouncing off every step. Found out later he was arrested and held for six months.
End of problem.
The aircraft commander should allow security personnel to do their jobs. :)

28th Jun 2001, 11:06
Ranger one you asked to hear from cabin crew; what would we do under those circumstances in Milan?

Answering for myself only here.
Captain's decisions to be enforced as long as possible. When pax get out of hand and start getting aggressive I would inform the Captain that I was going to disarm the slide bars and open the doors.

Captain is God when it comes to decisions in-flight.
But this was a situation on the ground in a stationary AC, and I would follow my own common sense.
It's after all what the company pays me for doing.

Regarding the policing of pax, to a certain extent we have to do it, otherwise anarchy will break out on some flights.
But in far and away most cases handing the pax a "notice of violation" and telling him/her that (s)he will be met by local authorities upon landing, does the trick.

The best way in my experience is to come down like a ton of bricks in good time on those pax that obviously don't give a sh!t about the rules and the safety implications of same.

Since this goes against everything FA's are trained for, it's a new trick to learn for many of us. But it saves a load of hassle for everybody in the end.

Wig Wag
28th Jun 2001, 11:07
My sympathies to the Go Captain.

Here is a situation I had once.

The CSD reported to me, at a late stage in the descent, that he was reasonably certain that two passengers were using a Class A drug in the lavatory.

What would you do in this situation?

Fortunately my airline has an experienced operations department who had the solution. Customs were alerted with a description of the passengers and tried to locate them on exit. Unfortunately they were too late on the scene and the men got away. The airport police declined to get involved.

I could have done nothing I suppose BUT . . . you can't have people taking cocaine and then disposing the last of the stash in the aircraft can you?

If the Go Captain had enjoyed really good support from his operations department the outcome might have been different.

This is one of the disadvantages of working for a small airline - there is less back up and corporate experience to draw on.

28th Jun 2001, 11:35
Tricky one Wig Wag! What with it being late into descent the chances of them causing any disruption b4 disembarkation were pretty slim. And is the enforcement of drugs laws upto us?
Sounds like you did the wise thing, shame the customs were too late........

In a similar vein, I have a question for all. 2 weeks ago during ground stop at an out-station, our AC was boarded by local customs officers & sniffer dogs without so much as a by your leave. Crew was eating lunch but I was still in the front-galley checking catering so I could stop the the invasion in it's tracks and tell the officers that nobody was boarding the AC without first informing the Captain of their intentions and asking for his permission.

Customs people didn't take kindly to this, and complained rudely in their own language. Only when I answered them in the same language and told them that this was a foreign AC and as such the Captain was the BOSS and was owed due respect, did they stop trying to shove me aside, and asked could I please get the capatin for them?
Permission was of course granted and they did indeed find a small amount of hashish in one of the seat pockets. (after the cleaners had done their bit http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/eek.gif )
My question, when the AC doors are open on foreign soil, what rules apply? Are the local authorities to be heeded in all things, or does the Captain still have authority on board?? http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/confused.gif

PS: Paper Tiger, thanks for that link!
Interesting reading and as you say, thought provoking.

Singularly Simple Person........

28th Jun 2001, 13:37
I like the bit about the sprinkler system. But how about having the toilet airtight and when carbondioxide levels in the lu go above a sertain level all the air gets succed out creating a vaccum thus eradicading of the smell. Ergo, problem solved.

Nothing to see here, just making use of the internet!

28th Jun 2001, 16:34
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Perhaps we should start a competition for the best story of an OTT action by a Captain.</font>

A couple of food-related incidents over here. Failed to find references, so I'll have to go from memory.

1. SEA-LAX. Meals run out before captain gets his. Makes unscheduled landing at SFO (&lt;1 hour from destination). Refuses to take off again until he's fed.

2. LAS-DTW(?). Captain's special meal not loaded. Prior to departure, captain leaves the a/c, takes a taxi downtown, enjoys a leisurely buffet, returns to airport 90 minutes later.

Imagine being in the right seat on either of those ! Both were fired IIRC.

[This message has been edited by PaperTiger (edited 28 June 2001).]

28th Jun 2001, 20:14
Flapsforty, answer to your question.

When the aircraft has stoped and the doors are OPEN the local authorites have control, ie if an incident takes place with a pax and you request assistance, or a law in the visiting country has been broken. Once the Doors have been CLOSED for takeoff, the commander has authority on behalf of the authorities of the contry the A/C is registered in. We had a canadian registered A/C a few years ago, and if there were any onboard incidents during flight theses were governed by canadian laws and not our UK ones. With regards to customes, yes it is courtesy for them to seek permission before boarding, however in almost all countries, customs officals have the right of entry and the right to detain the aircraft and its occupants without seeking permission from either the Airline, captain or local courts.

Hope this helps.

28th Jun 2001, 20:45
As we are telling stories, I thought I would add my tuppence worth. A few years ago I had a passenger arrested on arrival in Palma. He had been caught smoking in the toilet which was bad enough but it was his "couldn't give a stuff" reaction to the cabin crew's remonstrations that sealed it for me (and him).
When I eventually manged to get down the stairs I could see a man gesticulating and remonstrating with the Guardia Civil. So I go up to him and tell him that it all very well being sorry now but it should have happened a long time ago when the cabin crew tackled him. His response? "But Captain I am your agent, that is the passenger over there" pointing to a very quiet individual who was standing at the bottom of the same steps which I had just descended. Exit stage right pne very embarrased pilot muttering " let that be a lesson to you anyway...no you I mean".
Sorry about all that, just thought I'd lighten it up a little. But before anyone accuses me of treating the subject lightly, I should perhaps add that I have actually been to court over another such incident but that is yet another story and yes I did get the right guy that time!