Pilot's Suit Against Whistleblowing Flight Attendants Tossed by Judge
By Sarah Fenske in NewsMonday, Mar. 2 2009 @ 3:22PM
Victor J. Palagano III
Flight attendants Paula Walker, Brian Shunick, and Sue Burris have been vindicated by the judge's ruling.
Score one for safety.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Louis Araneta last week dimissed a U.S. Airways pilot's lawsuit against three flight attendants who complained about him to the Federal Aviation Administration. The flight attendants filed their complaint after the pilot, First Officer Ed Gannon, initially resisted their suggestion that he needed to de-ice the wings of the plane prior to take off on a frigid morning in Calgary, Alberta.
Icy wings have been blamed for a number of plane crashes, including the one in Buffalo last month. And though Gannon did eventually acquiesce to the flight attendants' pleas -- and admitted in deposition that he did see "frost" on the wings, thereby necessitating the de-icing -- he still filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, arguing that the flight attendants lied to the FAA and defamed him.
Not true, according to Judge Araneta.
Gannon, Araneta wrote, "acknowledges in his deposition that he saw frost on the wing and that frost is a contaminant under the FAA regulation. [His] viewing of the frost was consistent with the [flight attendants] having seen what they thought was ice and reporting it."
And, as the judge added, Gannon "admitted in his deposition that a flight attendant does not act recklessly if they see ice or contamination on an aircraft and report it."
Nice we could clear that up.
"Of course, we are just ecstatic," Paula Walker, one of the flight attendants in the case, told New Times this afternoon. "We learned about this over the weekend, and it's been a fabulous weekend -- FINALLY. You can put that in capital letters!"
"It's great that Judge Araneta recognized this was a safety issue," said Daniel Riley, of Curry Pearson, & Wooten, who represented the flight attendants. "He saw that Gannon essentially admitted to everything he'd claimed was defamatory. The only bad part is that it still ending up costing the flight attendants a significant amount of attorney's fees to get here."
Go figure -- we at New Times weren't immune from expense, either. The pilot, Gannon, attempted to subpoena all our notes after we published a column about the case on January 27. Suffice to say that we didn't suffer much -- unlike the flight attendants, we certainly didn't have to mortgage our house to cover our legal bills. But we're still glad to see the case closed and our heroes vindicated.
There's a lot more to this story, so we'll follow up with a column in our print edition next week. Stay tuned ...