Federal transportation officials in the United States are investigating an unauthorized in-flight cockpit visit by a coach for the Colorado Rockies baseball team during a United Airlines charter flight last week from Denver to Toronto.

Video surfaced this week that appears to show Rockies hitting coach Hensley Meulens sitting in a pilot’s seat while the April 10 flight was at cruising altitude. It is against U.S. regulations for unauthorized people to be on the flight deck.

He can be seen and heard on the video joking with other people in the cockpit — including a person in a pilot’s uniform and at least one other person who does not appear to be an airline employee — and says the plane is at 35,000 feet (10,670 metres).

“Flying the plane, here to Toronto,” Meulens says as he gestures toward the person in uniform sitting next to him.

“I’m going to land the plane tonight. So relax,” he says. He then reaches toward the flight controls and pretends to take hold, saying, “I just press this button … and it goes down.”

Meulens posted the video on social media and later deleted it, but it had already gone viral and was re-posted, the Denver Post reported. He could not immediately be reached for comment through the Rockies’ administrative offices.

United has suffered a series of problems in recent weeks, including a piece of aluminum skin falling off a plane, a tire dropping off another during takeoff and an engine fire. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stepped up its oversight of the carrier, and the airline’s CEO has sought to reassure travellers the airline is safe.

United ‘deeply disturbed’ by video

A United spokesperson said it was conducting its own investigation of the flight. The airline said the cockpit visit was “a clear violation of our safety and operational policies” and was reported to the FAA.

“We’re deeply disturbed by what we see in that video, which appears to show an unauthorized person in the flight deck at cruise altitude while the autopilot was engaged,” United spokesperson Russell Carlton said.

The pilots on the flight have been withheld from service while the airline investigates, he said.

FAA spokesperson Chris Mullooly said the agency was investigating but provided no further details because it’s an open investigation.

“Federal regulations restrict flight deck access to specific individuals,” he said.

The cockpit visit was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Rockies representatives did not immediately respond to emails and telephone messages seeking comment. Major League Baseball said it was aware and monitoring the FAA probe.

The Rockies announced their hiring of the 56-year-old Meulens as the team’s hitting coach in November 2022.

Prior to his coaching days, Meulens played for several MLB, including, briefly, the Montreal Expos.

Source link www.cbc.ca