The age of innocence ended on September 11
Stabroek News
March 26, 2002

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Dear Editor,

While not wanting to get into the Gaul-BWIA fray, I thought that I would add my two cents worth to the now beaten up story. One gets the impression that having left his home in Sweden, Mr. Gaul was operating under the misguided conception that if you board an aircraft from the back you are being ill-treated.

The reality at most North American and European airports with boarding fingers, is that passengers plane and deplane through one door, which is the front. In the Caribbean, where we are not so fortunate to have these more modern boarding facilities, (editor's note: Trinidad now has these) airlines have the option of boarding passengers from either or both the front and rear. Having said that, airlines have determined that passengers from rows 1 - 12 for example, could board from the front of the aircraft and passengers from rows 13 - 30, from the back. This allows the boarding process to be simultaneous, simple and easy.

In the last few minutes prior to departure, the Captain is probably in the midst of his pre-flight checks. In such circumstances, he should not be disturbed, certainly not by incidents which the Cabin Crew, headed by the Purser, is authorized to handle. If the Captain is distracted and misses an item on the checklist and there is an accident, if he or she is found culpable, the regulatory authorities, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will revoke his license.

Circumstances like the Gaul case constitute a judgment call for the pilot. Faced with constraints of internationally stipulated duty periods, delays could result in expiration of the duty period while that aircraft is on the ground. This would require the serving pilot to proceed to hotel for a rest period and the airline would have to find another crew to complete the flight. Alternatively, the duty period could have expired in Guyana in which circumstance, a new crew would be required to take the flight to its next stop, Piarco. Either scenario of expired duty periods would inconvenience all 90 passengers and cost the airline a lot of money.

Another undesirable scenario would be the pilot allowing a passenger who had been disruptive but has calmed down to remain on board. Imagine that after a few shots of good Caribbean rum, the effects of which will be exacerbated at 35,000 feet, the passenger again becomes disruptive and causes an accident. Again, the pilot will be culpable.

I think that in the analysis of the case to date, several underlying issues, including the above, were not considered. Mr. Gaul caused a disruption, the likes of which are no longer tolerated on board aircraft. The Age of Innocence ended on September 11.

Yours faithfully,

Rodwell A. Paul