A commercial airline pilot who wants Canadians to know the truth about pornography found in Air Canada flight decks says she’s speaking out to defend another pilot whose complaints were reported in a previous CBC News story, saying she has seen images that included "genitals and full nudity."
The pilot said she is challenging claims the airline made in a previous CBC News story that the images were mostly "inappropriate business cards" from Las Vegas, found with limited frequency mainly on one aircraft type, the Embraer E-90.
"You could encounter it once or twice every month," said the pilot, whose identity CBC News is not revealing, given her concerns about reprisals from colleagues and Air Canada.
Describing some of what she's found as "definitely pornographic" she said it could range from suggestive pin-ups to, "clearly explicit images."
"I have flown several different aircraft types at Air Canada and this kind of material would be found on all aircraft types," she said in an interview with CBC’s senior investigative correspondent, Diana Swain.
The pilot said she felt compelled to come forward after reading angry online backlash against the female pilot mentioned in CBC’s previous story. That pilot had complained to Air Canada and Transport Canada about finding increasingly hostile pornography in the flight deck, formerly known as the cockpit.
"Seems to me the pilot to fire is her if she needed stress leave from a pic. I do not want to put my life in the hands of someone so emotionally/mentally unstable," wrote one person anonymously in response to the CBC story.
"Don't know if I want someone that fragile flying my plane," wrote another online commenter.
"How would she cope if something serious happens?" another asked.
Pilot defends colleague
"I was heartbroken that many of the comments around this story seemed to portray her as a troublemaker or thin-skinned," said the pilot in defence of her colleague.
In documents obtained through an access to information request, the original pilot who filed the complaints said things got worse after she took her concerns to management. She says a picture of a naked woman with a knife drawn into her back was subsequently discovered in another Air Canada flight deck.
CBC News has learned that Air Canada began warning pilots as early as 2008 not to leave, post or hide sexually explicit material in the flight deck. Several bulletins caution pilots they could be fired or face criminal charges if caught.
The pilot interviewed by CBC says it should not be that difficult to figure out who is responsible, particularly given rigorous security measures in the airline industry.
Air Canada would not say if anyone has been disciplined, and has not responded to numerous requests for comment since CBC’s initial story last month.
CBC News has since obtained an internal Air Canada bulletin dated Feb. 14, 2014, reminding pilots that, "posting or hiding of explicit, illicit or suggestive material in company aircraft must cease immediately."
The warning was prompted by another complaint of inappropriate material being found, this time "...on one of our A320 Aircraft," according to the bulletin.
"Even the really good men at Air Canada, which are the vast majority, I’m not sure would appreciate the inappropriateness of having this kind of material still present in a workplace in 2014,” said the pilot interviewed by CBC News.
She said she's confident that the majority of Air Canada pilots act professionally and responsibly, but maintains that pornography has no place in any workplace, particularly in this day and age.
"I'm sure the board of directors at Air Canada … aren't distributing pictures of women's genitals on their desks,” she said.
Asked if it's a safety issue, she said it, "can undermine the functioning of the flight deck," adding, "It's not the pornography itself that I think distresses female pilots. It's that implied misogyny, where their mere presence in the flight deck is something that’s less respectful than the presence of a man."
She said that while most explicit images are likely left as a joke for the next flight crew to find, she thinks a small minority of male pilots are leaving them there intentionally, to send a message to female pilots that they are not welcome.
Air Canada says about 150 of its nearly 3,000 pilots are women.
The pilot interviewed by CBC says more bulletins from Air Canada are not the answer.
"I really think the solution lies in all of the good, professional, talented men at Air Canada and their leadership. That they want to show that their workplace is open to anybody. It's kind of like the bully in school. If the cool kid in school stands up against the bullying, then the bullying stops."
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