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Federal officials investigating cockpit visit by Rockies coach during United flight


DENVER (AP) — Federal transportation officials are investigating an unauthorized inflight cockpit visit by a coach for the Colorado Rockies 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 federal 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 meters).

“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 reposted, The Denver Post reported. He was not available for comment in the Rockies’ clubhouse on Friday, but manager Bud Black said Meulens was contrite and his job was not in jeopardy.

“Bam-Bam, he apologized,” Black said. “I can’t comment really any further because of what is being called an investigation of the matter. As far as Bam-Bam goes, he apologized to the Rockies, apologized to United, apologized to the team.”

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 Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up its oversight of the carrier, and the airline’s CEO has sought to reassure travelers the airline is safe.

A United spokesperson said the airline was conducting its own investigation of the April 10 flight. The airline said the cockpit visit was “a clear violation of our safety and operational policies” and was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“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, Carlton said.

Federal Aviation Administration 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.

Major League Baseball said it was aware and monitoring the Federal Aviation Administration probe.

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Associated Press


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