Vol. 3, Issue 1, January 4, 2005
Pilot who Drove Plane From Boston to NY Gets Reprieve
American Airlines, facing tremendous public outcry, is dropping charges against a captain who taxied a Boeing 757 from Boston to New York on Christmas Eve.
"While we still cannot condone what Captain Haley did, in retrospect we understand that he acted in what he perceived to be the best interests of the passengers," said American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey. "We therefore have decided not to pursue punitive action at this time."
Haley made headlines on December 24 when he apparently decided he'd "had enough" of the holiday delays. Bad weather and cancelled flights throughout the nation resulted in record-setting delays in airports all over the country, as weary holiday travelers thronged understaffed check-in counters and security checkpoints.
"The fact is, travelers now need to arrive at least three to four hours ahead of their flights," said Haley in an interview with Barbara Walters last weekend. "And more than once we've sat on the tarmac for an extra hour or so, and then when we arrive, it takes passengers another 2 hours to find their baggage and extricate themselves from the airport. If they're lucky."
Haley noted that for many passengers, this meant a total travel time of eight to nine hours for a Boston-New York flight, of which only 1 hour and 15 minutes was spent in the air. That, he says, is why he drove his plane into the parking lot in front of Boston International, threw the doors open, and used a megaphone to announce he was going to New York immediately. On the ground.
"Well, we got the plane filled up in about 20 minutes, and it turned out everyone did have a valid ticket to go to JFK. After that, it was an easy drive."
The plane made it to New York in just over two and a half hours, depositing grateful passengers at their destination before they would have even reached the metal detectors at Boston International.
"We had a bit of a sticky time getting over the Triborough Bridge," admitted Haley, "but I'm sure the damage to the wings can be easily fixed. A little glue, a little paint... you'll never know the difference."
Haley was immediately suspended and American Airlines was considering a battery of charges against him. However, the maverick captain's impulsive drive struck a chord with weary travelers nationwide. Thousands of letters in support of Haley bombarded American corporate headquarters; even the New York Times editorial page suggested that he may have come upon "the best solution for the airline industry's woes proposed in a long time."
Officials are divided as to whether permitting aircraft to drive along the nation's roadways is advisable, but some at least are considering the possibility, despite the many implications of permitting airplanes to share the interstates with passenger cars.
"Well, to be honest, it's not much of a jump from a Humvee to a 757," said Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. "In fact I think the Boeing gets better mileage."