DETROIT — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is reportedly launching a formal investigation after passengers alleged a pilot and copilot of a Delta Air Lines flight gave up their seats to honor airmen home from Afghanistan this week.
The gesture, while well meaning, caused a security scare and shutdown the Detroit Metropolitan Airport for five hours.
Manifests indicate the Air Force fuel specialists en route to Las Vegas — 19-year-old Airman First Class Ted Farnsworth and 21-year-old Senior Airman Wayne Stryker — were not in any way qualified to pilot an aircraft, commercial or private. However, that did not cross the mind of the plane's recently suspended captain, James Reynolds.
"They were in the Air Force, so I honestly didn't see a problem," said Reynolds. "Based on all of those commercials I see on TV I just assumed everyone in the Air Force was a pilot. They really have to be more clear."
"I wonder if they do that on purpose?" Reynolds pondered aloud.
According to first class passenger Bassam Talhouni, numerous travelers became concerned when they saw Reynolds and his copilot in coach reading "Sky Magazine" and emptying Absolut mini bottles into their sodas. Assuming another crew was piloting the plane, Talhouni was shocked to find the junior airmen bemusedly and arbitrarily flipping switches in the cockpit.
"It went on for, like, 20 minutes," Talhouni said. "Then they started pushing the [yoke] forward and backward making buzzing noises. One of them even remarked about all of the [sex] they were going to get when they told everyone back home."
While it seemed innocent at first, Talhouni claimed it took a dark turn when the pair started mimicking explosions and shooting noises.
"Don't get me wrong: I have nothing but respect for our service members, but you never know in this day and age," Talhouni added. "So after the flight attendant locked them in the cabin for takeoff I called 911."
Although the NTSB's findings are pending, the fiasco has already caught the attention of outraged veterans everywhere. They have been lambasting the organization across social media, as well as threatening lawsuits.
"I think it is obvious how [the NTSB and Delta Airlines] feel about our nation's heroes," said Doug Goss, a spokesman for Veteran Justice Warriors. "After everything we have done for this country — all of the sacrifices — to take those seats away because of some antiquated 'regulations' is a slap in the collective faces of our Armed Forces."
Delta Air Lines' legal counsel, Jeffrey Cochrane, issued a statement maintaining Delta is "cooperating fully" with the NTSB and this "in no way reflects their views on the U.S. military." Even if it were to go to court, Cochrane explained, the precedent has already been set.
"Veterans go on major news outlets seven days a week waxing intellectual on foreign policy and other subjects they are wildly unqualified to address. How is this scenario any different?"