An American National Airlines pilot was fined by airport police and sanctioned by the airlines for excessive flatulence after airline crew members and passengers complained of noxious fumes in the cabin during a trans-continental flight today.
The problems began prior to the flight's departure from Los Angeles International Airport when the pilot purchased several bean burritos from the food court to take on the aircraft with him.
"There simply wasn't time to get something decent to eat before we were scheduled to start boarding," said Colin Rektin, a 12-year veteran pilot for the airline, in a telephone interview. "If we leave the concourse we have to go through security again to get to our aircraft, and that's pure crap. So I went to Taco Bell. Sue me."
According to witnesses, several passengers are considering doing just that.
"I can't believe how bad it smelled up there," said one passenger. "I have two kids, a dog, and a pig farm, and I've never smelled anything as rotten as that pilot! You can bet I'm gonna sue the airline. My nose burns. I deserve some money for that."
"I seriously thought someone stashed a dead body in the cargo hold or something," said another passenger. "You know, like those murder mystery shows. I nearly fainted more than once."
Even air crews, who often have years of flying experience and are exposed to all manner of filth on commercial aircraft, reported gagging during the flight.
"I went to the cabin to make sure he was all right," said a flight attendant who spoke to us on condition of anonymity. "But as soon as I opened the cabin door my eyes started watering and I couldn't breathe. It was horrible."
Some witnesses reported seeing the co-pilot wearing a gas mask during the flight. Gas masks are not standard equipment for air crews, said American National Airlines spokeswoman Tina Keller.
"It's quite possible that he had his own gas mask with him for the flight," Keller said. "The pilot and co-pilot fly together often. Maybe the co-pilot smelled something before they left. You know, like a little squirty fart or SBD or something, before they left. I think he's a Federal Flight Deck Officer, so I think he's allowed to have one of those with him."
Not so fast, say American National Airlines officials. According to a company memo issued last October, no pilot is allowed to pass gas on a commercial flight lasting more than 3 hours without special certification from the Transportation Security Administration. Because Rektin does not possess such a certificate he is subject to a sanction by the airline and up to a $10,000 fine, according to TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield.
"There are certain regulations prohibiting the emission of hazardous gases on board," said Hatfield, "but I can't comment on specific procedures."
When asked if he was aware of the policy, Retkin told us, "What certificate? I was trying to pinch my cheeks to keep from shitting my pants. So it smelled a little. We landed safely, didn't we?"
That depends on who you ask.
Mark Arsenault is a regular contributor to Screeners Central (www.tsa-screeners.com), the humorous (and at times irreverent) resource site for America's TSA Screeners.