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Wed, Nov 02, 2022

Court Sides With Wrongfully Terminated American Airlines Pilot

Justice; Sweeter When Aged

In August 2020, DeWitt Ingram—an American Airlines pilot who’d passed 21 exemplary years in the carrier’s employ—was professionally, financially, and personally undone by a nightmarish sequence of events born of illiteracy, apathy, and reactionary bureaucracy.

Mr. Ingram’s tragedy was set into motion by an employee of Eulen America, a multinational provider of aviation ground-services, who sought to notify the pilot that he’d been selected for random drug testing after a flight to Miami. Subject employee did not know Ingram personally, and mistakenly referred to him as David while querying a flight-attendant as to his whereabouts. Nevertheless, Ingram met the Eulen Group employee, explained to her that his name was not David, and returned to his duties.

The following day, Ingram woke to several voicemail messages from American Airlines’ flight operations department, expressing collective shock that he’d refused to submit for the (ostensibly) prescribed drug and alcohol testing. Vexed, Ingram immediately scheduled a series of tests, including a blood screening, that showed neither alcohol nor drugs in his system. Notwithstanding his demonstrable sobriety and wholly defensible reason for initially declining to be tested, American Airlines got swiftly about the revulsive business of petitioning the FAA to revoke the entirety of Ingram’s pilot licenses and aircraft ratings—all because an imprudent ground-service employee failed, apparently, to differentiate between DeWitt and David.

Within a period of time measurable in months, Ingram suffered the dual ignominies of being fired by American Airlines and being grounded by Federal Aviation Administration bureaucrats who not only revoked his pilot certificates and ratings, but reportedly expunged all records of his ever having been a pilot from the FAA Airman Registry public website.

Unable to work in his profession, Mr. Ingram subsequently spent his life savings, exhausted his 401K, and sold off stock and personal possessions to survive. “Never in my worst nightmare could I have dreamed my happy world of personal and professional achievement and pride could end so disastrously as it did,” he remarked. “It’s been a long, dark, hole-in-the-ground prison.”

The facts of Ingram’s case emerged publicly over the course of two October 2022 court proceedings, the first of which saw a Florida State Court judge allow Ingram’s lawsuit against American Airlines and Eulen America to move ahead despite the two companies’ petitions for dismissal. In the second instance, an administrative law judge at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing ruled that the FAA had revoked Ingram’s flight certificates and ratings illegally.

Currently, Ingram and the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, are making ready to bring a civil suit against American Airlines and Eulen America. Speaking on behalf of Ingram, Allied Pilots Association president Ed Sicher put forth: “This fight will continue as APA shifts its focus to now assisting this pilot through representation in the pending wrongful termination grievance and by offering support in his civil court action.” To the subject of compensation, Sicher added: “[Ingram] needs to be made whole for the loss of his earnings, the loss of his license, and the abuse he was administered.”

Whatever the outcome of the pending civil suit, Mr. Ingram will never again fly for American—or any other Part 121 carrier for that matter. The veteran pilot, regrettably, cannot be retrained quickly enough to fly before his 65th birthday in January 2023.



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