View Full Version : Japan Airlines faces $7M lawsuit

12th Mar 2003, 21:19
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Japan Airlines faces $7M lawsuit

12/03/2003 10:32_-- (SA)__
Deborah Haynes

Tokya - Asia's largest carrier, Japan Airlines, is facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in connection with allegations that it broke aviation safety rules by allowing pilots to fly while sick.

The flagship Japanese carrier vehemently denies the allegations, but airline captain Jack Crawford and flight engineer Martin Ventress claim a co-pilot was permitted to fly two planes packed with hundreds of passengers despite losing consciousness at the controls several times.

The co-pilot, Jeff Bicknell, who allegedly was carried out of the cockpit twice during one JAL flight, was diagnosed with a brain tumour a few days after landing the second aircraft, which belonged to a JAL subsidiary, JALways.

"It is time to let the world know what is going on," said Crawford, 60, who worked with Ventress for a Hawaii-based firm that contracts crews to airlines.

The pair, both United States citizens, filed the lawsuit against JAL, JALways and their employer, Hawaii Aviation Contract Services in California, last December.

In the suit, Crawford and Ventress also claim they were harassed by their employers and unfairly lost their jobs after reporting the supposed safety breaches, which they say happened under the command of Captain Kazuo Hanami, a JALways vice-president and pilot.

'Jeopardised lives of passengers'

Crawford and Ventress are seeking a total of about $7m (about R55m) in damages for alleged wrongful dismissal, emotional distress and legal costs.

"My client ... observed one Jeff Bicknell exhibiting obvious extreme symptoms that incapacitated him to fly a plane," said Martin Cervantes, the pair's lawyer.

"Captain Hanami, who is a safety officer, would not allow him to be moved so that someone else could take over the controls and, in doing that, he not only jeopardised the lives of my clients, but the lives of those nearly 300 people who were on the plane," he said.

Hanami, contacted by telephone at a hotel in Honolulu, declined to comment.

According to JAL rules, in an emergency when one of the crew falls sick, the captain must land his plane at the nearest available airport or replace the individual with someone else, said Geoffrey Tudor of JAL and JALways.

"In this case it was not recognised that there was an emergency," he said.

JAL and JALways, while acknowledging the lawsuit, said the case was baseless.

"The plaintiffs are attempting to try this case in the media in an effort to manipulate the public's fear of flying and damage JAL's reputation," said Tudor.

Crawford and Ventress allege that Bicknell, who was training to become a captain under Hanami's instruction, had trouble landing the flight from Bangkok to Osaka on June 17, 2001, because he was sick.

"When (after one failed attempt) he slammed the plane on to the ground, overhead doors popped open and people screamed," said Ventress, 49.

The second incident, seen by Ventress, occurred on June 20 on a JALways flight from Honolulu to Hiroshima and Osaka.

Bicknell, who was again piloting the plane under Hanami's guidance, looked sick and fell asleep during the first leg to Hiroshima three times, according to Ventress.

After another poor landing by Bicknell, Ventress asked Hanami to take over the controls for the short hop to Osaka, but the captain allegedly refused and allowed Bicknell to continue.

Now, he's too sick to fly

In Osaka, Bicknell was admitted to the airport hospital where he was told he was too sick to treat.

Flown back to Hawaii, the co-pilot was diagnosed with a brain tumour and is now totally incapacitated, Ventress and Crawford said.

The pair said what they witnessed prompted them to file a safety report to JAL, which was rejected.

Crawford and Ventress then sent further reports to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the US Federal Aviation Bureau.

The JCAB rejected their allegations and the pair decided to sue, alleging JAL set out to terminate their contracts.

Crawford said JAL gave him a string of flying tests which, despite an unblemished record of 40 years, he failed.

Ventress said he was asked to undergo physical and psychological examinations in the United States, which he passed. JAL then required him to be assessed by two Japanese psychiatrists in Tokyo who declared him medically unfit to fly, he said.

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bugg smasher
13th Mar 2003, 18:11
Sounds like business as usual in the Far East aviation world;

To confront the JALways vp/pilot would constitute a grave loss of company face, unacceptable in that society, despite evidence that he may be dangerously unsafe. JALways is a HACS client, so HACS wouldnít say bullpucky even if their collective mouths were full of it.

And so, when they want to get rid of you and canít find an excuse to do it, they set you up for a sim bust and a psych check. The report from the two Japanese psychiatrists must make for some side-splitting, reality-tilting reading, Iíd love to see it.

Hopefully these guys will get an out-of-court settlement if the publicity gets too hot for JAL.

Midnight Mike
13th Mar 2003, 18:53
Do I smell SET UP!!! If the Japanese do not want you flying for them, they will find a way to get rid of you. I watched them do it before to a TWA senior 747 F/E.

13th Mar 2003, 19:02
Unfair treatment should not be tolerated, no matter where ever it is. However, Law-suit of 7M is unthinkable figure for that part of the world which might frighten to hire american pilots in the futuire.

14th Mar 2003, 01:41
Unthinkable? If the allegations are found to be accurate, it is a very reasonable punitive sum, not to mention loss of income, etc. AND the medical expenses to boot with no insurance.

If this is the treatment these pilots received from both companies, I wouldn't think of working at such places. As for the future of American pilots in Asia, who the f cares?!!

14th Mar 2003, 07:11
If the allegations are found to be accurate, it is a very reasonable punitive sum,

I have to disagree with you. The whole culture of massive financial compensation for all and every grievance is costing us all dearly.

Foreign Worker
14th Mar 2003, 10:49
The discrimination against non-Japanese employees working for JAL might hopefully be brought into the spotlight, by this action.

One only has to read some of the inhouse reports submitted by the Japanese, to start to understand it eg. "the Flight Engineer was non-Japanese, and didn't seem to understand what was going on" has been published more than once over the past 12 or 18 months.

We (the non-Japs) are often treated as second class POW's by other Japanese cockpit and cabin crew members (one learns how this is done in their "cultural" way after a period of time working with them), and JAL does NOTHING to discourage it.
They obviously feel that if you are employed by them, then they OWN you.

Their inability to think "outside the square" (lateral thinking) is almost begs belief, to the point where it sometimes costs them MORE to do something "as programmed", than to recognise a situation that has changed and to change their train of thought.

My bet is that if Jeff Bicknell had been Japanese, this scenario would never have developed to the point it did.
Plain and simple discrimination.

Kaptin M
15th Mar 2003, 21:51
Agreed, FW. It surprised me to find it so prevalent here.:(

bugg smasher
16th Mar 2003, 13:44
The Japanese have very specific ways of dealing with people and situations. Their culture is thousands of years old and relies heavily, in my opinion, on a narrowly defined social hierarchy. Given the crowded conditions in which they live, it may be a necessary thing. What works for them, however, is not always what works for us, especially in the pressure-cooker environment of the airliner cockpit.

As an expatriate worker, if you donít fit in you will find yourself ejected in short order. If you have made the effort to understand their culture, however, they will make every effort to accept you in return, and will even carry you great lengths if you are incompetent; such is their commitment to their fellows. Herein resides, ironically, the primary safety concerns.

4th Jun 2003, 10:28
This entire episode is a total sham. Crawford is an incompetent who was fired for just that reason and that reason alone. Ventress is a lazy malingerer who uses the color of his skin as an excuse for everything. Enough said!

4th Jun 2003, 11:40
My cousin is a JAL pilot. He is NOT an expat. I have met many pilots from JAL, and all were very friedly. I have also been into their cockpits a few times. One flight, the FO was not Japanese, from what I saw he was NOT treated as a second class citizen in any way whatsoever.

4th Jun 2003, 18:30
As a contract JAL captain I can state without hesitation that some of the statements above are false. Yes there is a cultural gap between us and the Japanese. Shouldn't there be? I have never been treated like a second class citizen and have quite enjoyed my time here. In fact it is probable one of the better jobs on the planet at this moment. As for Crawford and Ventress and from someone who has worked with both I will only say that I am indeed glad that they are no longer employed at this airline; the Japanese have nothing to fear from these two. As an aside to the story, Jeff Bicknell passed away last week from complications arising from his acquired illness. He will be missed. In his last days he spoke of how it sickened him that Crawford and Ventress had taken the action that they did. These people are trying to get something for nothing and are of course mired in perpetual victimhood. Shame shame!

When Crawford was let go he had not done a manual revision in over 4 years.