(Dallas) — The pilot at the center of a worldwide firestorm of controversy for bashing gays and women over an air traffic control frequency is getting no help in his defense.
His identity was confirmed by two separate highly-placed officials with direct knowledge of the airline’s investigation into the matter.
James Fritzen Taylor, 46, lives with his wife in their home in Argyle, north of Fort Worth. He did not reply to an e-mail or answer his door when a reporter visited his home. He graduated from Ohio State University in Columbus.
FAA records show his pilot’s license was renewed in April. He was born in April 1965 and previously lived in the San Antonio suburb of Converse and also had previously lived in Carollton, Texas.
Southwest Airlines employee records show he has been flying for 12-years with the airline, his preferred name is “James” and he is based out of Houston in the Flight Operations division.
Texas driver’s license records show he lives with his wife, and two sons, age 18 and 20, are also licensed to drive at his family home.
Efforts to locate the pilot for his side of the story were unsuccessful on Thursday. Several colleagues, including those among the pilot and flight attendant ranks, said he was off work this week on vacation.
His union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association, is not providing any legal representation for him because he is not appealing or filing a grievance over his suspension. A spokesman said the union would have no comment on the controversy since it’s not directly involved.
When the investigative team from KPRC-TV in Houston first aired the pilot’s recorded comments, Southwest Airlines offered very few details about the pilot. Spokesperson Brandy King at first said the airline considered it a “family matter” and so no details would be offered about the pilot.
She said he had been suspended, but the airline still won’t say for how long. The airline also said it ordered the pilot into sensitivity training, but that training had been completed and he had already been re-instated.
A Houston air traffic controller on Thursday said many controllers were offended by what the pilot said when his cockpit headset microphone was accidentally turned on around 1:30pm on March 25, 2011 on a flight from Austin to San Diego.
Immediately after the event ended, FAA air traffic controllers filled out a form called a “QAR Worksheet” which simply reads:
“FALCON w/voice reviewed from March 25, 2011, from 1330-1340 UTC, on R98 due to a stuck mike……Forwarded to employee’s OM (operations manager).”
When the Federal Aviation Administration sent that recording to Southwest Airlines, that prompted the suspension of the captain but the FAA’s involvement finished at that point, according to a spokesman in Dallas.
The recording, first provided to KPRC-TV in Houston in response to a Freedom of Information Act request in May, captures the captain expressing his displeasure over the lack of flight attendants he now finds suitable for dating.
“A continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes…..”
His co-pilot then says something that cannot be heard on the recording, so it’s unclear whether he comments about gay people or women who are overweight or older. Captain Taylor then replies,
“Well I don’t give a f–k, I hate 100% of their as-es.”
His main complaint seems to be the gay flight attendants now cutting down his dating choices. In one exchange, he mentioned a group of 12 flight attendants, but he said 11 out of 12 were all gay.
“Eleven f—ing over-the-top f—ing -ss f—ing homosexuals and a granny. (Pause)
Eleven! I mean, think of the odds of that!”
On Thursday, David Chinick with the National Gay Pilots Association Advocacy Team wrote in an e-mail,
“That captain definitely created a hostile work environment and offended many people including paying customers. Now that these hostile words are in front of Southwest Airlines customers and all the employees, including those he so badly offended, I would think it’s time for the Company to reset the example.”
Chinick, of Houston, said he is a pilot with a different airline. His group also reached out to several other gay advocacy groups in response to the stuck microphone controversy.
One of those groups, the Resource Center Dallas, received a call from Southwest Airlines after the story broke in an apparent effort to mend relations with the gay community.
The CEO of the Resource Center, Cece Cox, said,
“This person has absolutely no respect for gay people, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, women, people who are heavy and people who are over a certain age, whatever that is. Therefore I can’t imagine that there’s a whole lot of people that this person wants to work with. He’s probably creating a work environment that’s hostile and unsafe, unfriendly, unwelcoming.”
The head of the Southwest Flight Attendants Union, Transportation Workers of America Local 556, said his group’s lawyers are considering filing a federal workplace discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In a statement, union president Thom McDaniel wrote,
“We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet.”
Southwest Airlines issued a new apology the day after the recording was first aired in Houston, with the Vice President over Flight Operations facing a video camera and saying,
“Our pilots reprresent our company in a positive light every day and it deeply saddens me to explain a situation where one pilot did not. I want to be clear as to how seriously I view what he admitted to and apologized for doing. An open microphone broadcast his cockpit conversation over an air traffic control frequency. What he said is offensive and inconsistent with the professional behavior and overall respect we require of all employees. We disciplined him, we suspended him, and he’s taken additional diversity and inclusion training to reinforce the company’s expectation that he show respect and treat all with dignity. He has formally apologized to FAA controllers and he knows what he did cannot happen again. On behalf of the pilot, I want to apologize to our employees, to our customers, and to fellow pilots in the industry. This was an isolated incident with one employee making a poor decision using inexcusable language and is not representative of the 35,000 hardworking, respectful employees of Southwest Airlines.”
The flight attendant’s union said the airline’s response only adds “insult to injury” and urged the airline to address the hatred companywide instead of treating it as an isolated incident.
Also Thursday, a Houston air traffic controller said the tied up radio frequency remained a concern at control towers and behind the radar scopes at Houston Center, where the transmission tied up the airways for nearly 4-minutes.
He said there is no way to quickly reach other airliners when a microphone is stuck as in this case. The controller said the only alternative is to contact each individual airline and have them send messages similar to text alerts to their planes.
He said that was not necessary during this ordeal, but he also said it likely would have taken longer than 4-minutes to have an airline headquarters reach its planes in such a manner.
USA Today and the Wall Street Journal were among the major national papers printing the original story after it was first broadcast in Houston. Dallas media and the Wall Street Journal both included the un-edited recording on their websites.
The controversy was also featured during extended news broadcasts on CNN, NBC Today Show and other national networks. Local radio disk jockeys have also played parts of the recording as listeners poked fun or expressed anger at the pilot.
While Captain Taylor professes on his famous recording that he is now based in Houston, a search of thousands of public records and other investigative databases found no Houston area address tied to any commercial pilot with an FAA Air Transport Pilot license.
Southwest Airlines coworkers said it’s common for many who serve on flight crews to “commute” from other cities or states, regardless of where their teams are based.
A transcript of the recording:
Air Traffic Controller – (ATC) “United 242, you (center up)”
(Stuck microphone begins) Southwest Pilot: “Well, I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks and, uh, Chicago crews…11 out of 12 …there’s 12 flight attendants, individual, never the same flight attendant twice.
“Eleven (expletive) over the top (expletive), (expletive) homosexuals and a granny.” (silence)
“Eleven. I mean, think of the odds of that. I thought I was in Chicago, which was party-land.”
(Possible attempt to interrupt by ATC)
Southwest Pilot: “After that, it was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes…” (off mic from his copilot – inaudible)
Pilot answers: “Well I don’t give a (expletive). I hate 100 percent of their (expletive).”
“So, six months, I went to the bar three times. In six months, three times.” (Another possible attempt to interrupt by ATC)
“Once with the granny and the (slur against gay people), and I wish I hadn’t gone.”
“At the very end with two girls, one of them that was part do-able, but we ended up going to the bar and then to the crew at St. Louis, and all these two women wanted to do was, one wanted to berate her sister and the other wanted to bitch about her husband.”
“Literally, for three hours, me and the F.O. (First officer). When that was done, got back to my room, I’m like why the (expletive) did I stay up?”
ATC: “OK, whoever is, uh, transmitting, better watch what you’re saying.”
Southwest Pilot continues: “They’re still both (inaudible), you know what I mean? I still wouldn’t want anyone to know if I had banged them.”
“So, I mean it was a complete disaster for six months.”
“Now I’m back in Houston, which is easily where the ugliest base is. I mean it’s all these (expletive) old dudes and grannies and there’s like maybe a handful of cute chicks.”
ATC: “OK, someone’s got a stuck mic and, uh, telling us all about their endeavors. We don’t need to hear that.”
(Stuck microphone episode ends)
(Five seconds later, other commercial pilots check in with controllers)
“Uh, Houston, Skywest 6285, we’re (gives numbers for his heading) …and that was not us.”
ATC: (Chuckles) “Skywest 6285, Houston Center: Roger, Climb and maintain flight level 360.”
Skywest pilot: “360, Skywest 6285….And they wonder why airline pilots have a bad reputation.”
(ATC calls another plane with instructions.)
ATC: “Number 7 Hotel Bravo: (gives instructions) Final 240.”
Aircraft answers “7 Hotel Bravo…..And it wasn’t us either.” (beeping times 2)
ATC: ‘Roger, I didn’t think that was you.” (Recording ends)