(NEW YORK, NY) – As thousands of travelers prepared to take to the skies on Sunday morning, few knew of a massive legal debate brewing between many airlines and a rather peculiar plaintiff: Columbia Records.
While music and aviation is often seen as compartmentalized, separate entities, this recent situation proves that is not always the case.
In the recently filed docket on Sony Music Entertainment v. Literally Every Airline In The World, Sony, parent company of Columbia Records, asserts that over 100 airline training programs have used the 1986 Kenny Loggins song Danger Zone on the frequency 121.5MHz (AM), without explicit permission, and without royalties being paid and/or appropriate licensing agreements being obtained. To make matters worse for many of the airlines, the song, since being made popular in the hit movie Top Gun, has become somewhat of an anthem for airline pilots across the globe. This has been going on for at least three decades; at least according to the motion.
We spoke to some of the airlines.
“These guys come in, they train, and they do their thing,” said one training manager for a major American airline that wished to be anonymous. “I have found sometimes they struggle with the occasional work-related grudge, and blasting Danger Zone on 121.5MHz from a 190′ tall tower on top of a mountain at 45,000 watts, well it really just perks everyone up, and reminds all pilots within a 450 nautical mile radius, that, yeah, you’re a pilot. You should be proud.”
Only, the record company isn’t feeling the passion of flight.
“The airlines have taken this song and turned it into their own. They have made it seemingly clear to everyone involved that they are blatantly ignoring not only copyright and intellectual property law, but they are disrespecting the very nature of Danger Zone. When’s the last time you saw an airline pilot who was good looking, or named Goose? Unbelievable,” said one music industry executive.
Still, not all pilots are enthusiastic about Danger Zone.
“I was in the woods. It was snowing. I had run out of fuel. By the grace of God, I was able to land on Long Lake.” said one pilot, who simply called himself Billy.
“I had plenty of battery, though, and I hooked up an old transceiver and tried to broadcast on 121.5MHz, to get help, you know? I wanted to let people know I was ok. Suddenly, I was nearly blown 10 feet back by the incessant synth and guitar lines and gated-reverb drums. I mean, it was like I was back at SUNY Oneonta in 1985 or something, minus the blow. But man, I swear my hair started growing longer in a matter of seconds; and I’ve been bald for over 25 years. Well, that was cool, but as for getting help? Hell no!” He said.
“I ended up staying up there in the Adirondacks for over a week before someone finally found me.”
While Billy was eventually saved, he says he has residual effects from the song. “Sure, my hair has grown back, but now I have this insatiable desire to watch Tom Cruise movies. I asked my wife the other day whether ‘Mr. Mister’ released a new album, and she told me they’ve been broken up since 1990.”
But perhaps worst of all, Billy says, is how it has affected his flying.
“Every control tower I see, all I want to do is buzz it. Level flight? Fucking impossible. It’s like, my Piper Cub just does barrel rolls by itself. One at least one occasion, I have used the phrase ‘I was inverted’. It’s bad, man. Fuck that song.”
Billy hopes to hop onto the lawsuit against the many airlines that have, as he puts it, ‘ruined his life’.
“It’s bad enough that I can’t even land at an airport without a GPS. But now I have mental distress as well. What’s happening to this industry, man?”
Columbia Records hopes to settle out of court, and they’re asking for royalties (approximately $496,000,000,000.00) or the next Tool album.
This is a developing story.