Friday, June 10, 2011

2003 Final Letter to the Air Line Pilots Association Chairman at United Airlines

 August 27, 2003

Captain Mark Seal
UAL Council 52 Chairman
535 Herndon Parkway
P.O. Box 1169
Herndon, Virginia 20172-1169

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your letter expressing your thoughtful and heartfelt concern for the health of my aviation career and retirement. 
On September 11, 2001 something hideous happened to civilized humankind.  It quit working.  Something went terribly wrong.  Our government foreign policy and capitalism was not without fault.  It drastically and negatively impacted our industry, our airline, my labor union, our careers, our futures and our retirements.

I was hired as an aviation safety professional.  I have been both dismayed and perplexed for the past 23 months over the apparent lack of safety and security focus by our union leadership at the MEC level as well as the national level, on the readily apparent terrorist-related threats to our industry. 
The ALPA leadership at all levels has been mostly encumbered with economic survival interests in a bankrupt industry for obvious reasons.  If the industry were to collapse, safety and security concerns would be moot.  Recognizing the politically intricate, “mine-filled” landscape the MEC has had to negotiate and the consequent politically distressful union negotiating posture that has evolved, I have been offered no other recourse but to legally elicit support from other agencies for political furtherance of my security agenda.

The current presidential administration, through complicity with the ATSB, financial institutions and airline industry management, has wrongfully decided to immorally exploit the horrific air disasters of 9/11/01 for global political/economic gains while concurrently extracting unnecessary massive wage, pension, and work rule concessions from airline employees and destroying the safety voice of my union. 

I would not be so brash and foolish, even in my wildest imaginings, to attempt to single-handedly confront the U.S. government/ATSB, the banking and airline industries, and the AFL-CIO/ALPA and expect a successful or healthful outcome.  That would be a good definition of folly.

My recent correspondence has set into motion a process that cannot be stopped.  The worst fear for the government, the ATSB, the banks and the airline industry CEOs are that agencies outside their jurisdiction or political or legal influence or control, may produce damaging, compromising, or otherwise incriminating hard-evidence of extortion, coercion, intimidation or deceit that knowingly violated Federal law.  The end result would be public proof that a gross miscarriage of federal aviation and labor law occurred in violation of RICO statutes, which would prove conclusively that ALPA, my bargaining agent and safety representative to which I pay union dues, is ONLY guilty of complicity under duress in the careless and reckless operation of commercial jet aircraft potentially causing endangerment to the unwary traveling public and private property.

The entire global airline workforce needs one independent, common voice to collectively address this obvious travesty of Federal justice.  It is currently my intention to legally assist in the enabling of such a process to realize fruition.  I will do so without violating federal law, company policy, or the ALPA  Code-of Ethics.  If, by my affiliation as an ALPA member, such a measure would constitute a conflict of interest for me or would otherwise endanger the current ALPA negotiations or its’ political agenda, then I will, of course, as a matter of political convenience, resign from ALPA to further my own agenda.

My intent is not to jeopardize or cause economic harm to the airline industry or the U.S. economy.  I especially do not want to do anything that would further hinder or prevent United Airlines’ emergence from bankruptcy or discredit ALPA or the AFL-CIO.  Nor do I intend to compromise the security of the careers of any airline employees.  The truth needs to be exposed and the court of public opinion to judge on what devious scheme was concocted to salvage the post-9/11 air transportation industry on the financial backs of the employees while destroying their labor unions.

Reinforced cockpit doors, FAMs, and the TSA do nothing to thwart the threats of SA-18s, exposure to Racin, or plastic explosives in checked or carry-on luggage. 

 Recently, the FBI provided the Fams with a briefing on over 50 terrorist-threat items that can evade TSA security-screening detection.  The FAMs sit in first class and do not monitor passenger behavior in the rest of the aircraft. The flight attendants were not briefed or given specific information on the identification of these devices.  Since I still do not have the TV cameras that I was promised two years ago to monitor cabin activity, the flight attendants are my only eyes and ears in the back of the airplane.  They do not know specifically what they are looking for in terms of camouflaged terrorist devices.  We are at risk.  TSA is just window-dressing.  This is specifically what was stated by the DENTK Security Training instructor to 15 pilots at my last Proficiency Training this past May.  The pilots in attendance laughed in agreement.   What’s so funny about that?

To openly discuss the nature and identity of these 50 terrorist-threat items in public might negatively and severely impact schedule integrity due to crew concerns or shrink the company bottom line or even worse yet, expose the frailties of our TSA screening devices to the traveling public and create the impression there are weakness in the security system.  Imagine that? 
Please recall that December 21, 2003 marks the 15th anniversary of the Pan Am 103 air disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland and we still are not screening 100% of the luggage for plastic explosives.  Positive bag match is moot.  Terrorists are willing to travel with their luggage and die for their cause.

These are just a few examples of the many current breeches of aviation security that are prevalent in our industry. There are more.  You and I know it.  The traveling public doesn’t.  That isn’t fair. 

The traveling public has been provided by government and airline managers an illusion of aviation security.  Present day commercial aviation security is minimal at best. The real solutions to our security problems are COST-PROHIBITIVE. The only true solution to our security problems within the airline industry is a GLOBAL POLITICAL ONE.   Impeachment of the current depraved political process is the only correct solution.

President Bush has deemed it appropriate to play politics with other peoples’ lives in the furtherance of his political and economic agenda.  I am a pilot, not a politician.  I do not play politics with other peoples’ lives. Part of my job is to safely protect other peoples’ lives and to report via appropriate afforded communications mediums, glaring safety and security deficiencies that I observe in my workplace.   We have a conflict of interests in this matter.  His policies force me to compromise my safety and security policies.  The communication processes have broken down.  Post-9/11 global political issues have forced me into the political arena.  I do not want to be a politician.  I want to be a pilot.

We are not steerage-class passengers on the Titanic.  Knowing what I know to be true, I cannot look my crew and passengers in the eye in good conscience and continue to perform my duties as Captain without taking positive and corrective political action. I am in a position of control, influence, personal experience and knowledge to assist in effecting a favorable outcome to this situation. I will not just walk away or put on blinders.  To do so would be just as immoral and cowardly an act as being an accomplice in this distasteful parody. The once-muffled, collective voice of airline employees will be heard.  The truth will be told.  Justice will prevail.  ALPA will not be implicated.

In the noble and heroic names of Vince Saracini, Jason Dahl, Leroy Homer, and Mike Horrocks I will act.  To do otherwise is a disgrace to their memories.

To be a guilty silent partner in a nightmarish, gangster-like extortion scheme that results in gambling with human lives wherein I readily accept remuneration for my involvement, even under duress, would be akin to accepting “blood-money” for my participation.  I do not work for “blood-money”; not even in retirement.  I will attempt, yet another time, to effect change in the name of safety and security.  If unsuccessful, I will leave with or without retirement.   I WILL NOT GO SILENTLY. 

How many more future hull losses and memorial services will we have to endure before someone of conscience and conviction with moral strength and courage, stands up and unequivocally identifies the immorality and illegality of this nightmare without regard to personal or financial consequences of their action?

If, in the end, physical or economic harm were wrought on me as a result of my participation in these efforts, I can only say, as a lifetime pilot, to endure such a tragic conclusion to a 35-year career in aviation in the name of safety and security of humankind, would be such a phenomenally romantic and poetic final loving gesture and grand finale as I could ever possibly imagine in my grandest dreams.

Remember, Mark, I speak from my aviation soul.  No physical, emotional, political, or financial harm can ever come to a man’s soul.  The soul from whence I speak is that of a pilot’s.  It represents the moral high ground. I cannot lose. I am not Don Shimoda. Reluctance was never one of my weaknesses.  The only “Illusion” is the current aviation security system.  Thank you, Richard Bach.

Words cannot express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to you, your wife and your children for years of selfless sacrifice and dedication to the Air line Pilots’ Association, its’ members, and to aviation safety and security interests.  I, for one, through my career-long association with you, realize and greatly appreciate the intensity and depth of your involvement.  Thank you, Mark.

I do not play politics with other peoples’ lives.


Your friend and brother pilot,
Captain Dan Hanley 
 cc:    Mr. Bob Nichols, ALPA Atty-at-Law\
          Captain Al Merone, Vice-Chmn-Council 52
           Captain Joseph Genovese, Sec/Treas. Council 52

Eight years later, Captain Dan Hanley is still awaiting Islamabad, Pakistan where he has applied for dual citizenship and has sought political asylum.