LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – A sunny, beautiful morning in the skies over Atlanta suddenly descended into sheer pandemonium last week, after two off-duty air traffic control specialists got into a wild altercation on-board Delta Air Lines 2145, which departed from Savannah, Georgia destined for Atlanta.
Witnesses say one of the men, who was reportedly in his late 30s, had a T-Shirt on that said ‘ZNY – BUSIEST CONTROLLERS 2017’. It is unclear what this is in reference too, but most likely it is a reference to an air traffic facility. The other man, also in his 30s, had a shirt that had a picture of the control tower from Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The back of his shirt also included the same phrase, ‘BUSIEST CONTROLLERS 2017’.
Numerous witnesses say the two men boarded the plane separately and sat on opposite rows of the aircraft without incident during the earlier parts of the flight. Shortly after the plane took off, however, the men made eye-contact before one of them announced ‘you’re dead to me’, in a heavy New York accent. This was rebutted with the other man yelling something about VFR aircraft.
Jennifer Monaco, who was sitting in the row of seats in-front of the two men, said she could hear the tensions rising shortly after that.
“You know, the one guy with the control tower on his shirt, he was really getting worked up, I thought. He said something about ‘see me pee’, or maybe it was ‘see I pee?’ I don’t know. But he was saying stuff like, ‘oh you know, we oversee the world from our tower of power, and we know what happens at airports, and we move this tin’, and stuff like that. It was really fucking weird,” Monaco said. “He didn’t even take his complimentary peanuts. I mean this is 2017, who the fuck refuses peanuts? That’s like luxury, man. Such disrespect.”
A flight attendant, who wished to be unnamed, also claims to have heard the conversation beginning and heard similar things exchanged. “The guy with the New York shirt seemed to be OK, at first. But as soon as the Chicago guy said something about staffing and training, he began to get increasingly belligerent,” she said. “To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like it in my 19 years of employment here at Delta.”
Suddenly, as if the verbal assaults could not get any worse, one of the men jumped onto the other, and supposedly attempted to punch him. It is unclear who made the first offensive move, but James Calverton, who was sitting two rows behind the fight, believes it was the man from Chicago.
“There is no doubt that it was the Chicago guy who started the physical stage of this fight…
“There is no doubt that it was the Chicago guy who started the physical stage of this fight,” he said. “He was looking for it. He was saying things like ‘I’m gonna knock you out like TMU knocks out perfectly good routes during clear weather’, whatever that means. I had never seen anyone from Chicago get that aggressive. I don’t know what that New York guy said. I mean, it was worse than when the Cubs won the world series. It was like, ‘this isn’t supposed to happen’,” Calverton added, before trailing off into a manic babble about why the game of baseball has become a socio-political sports allegory for the racial divide in America.
Still, not all people agree it was the Chicago man who started the fight. 29-year-veteran pilot Adrian Van Iderstine, one of the most experienced pilots at Delta, who also happened to be captain that day, told us that he was briefed by his crew that the New Yorker was in fact the one who started the altercation. As he spoke, he rhythmically bobbed up-and-down in his chair; the years of consistent light chop now permanently set into his biological workings.
“I was briefed that there was an incident occurring in the cabin, and it involved endangering the welfare of some of our passengers,” Van Iderstine asserted. “Mandy [flight attendant], told me it was blatantly started by the New York kid, but luckily, as I have it, the only thing worse than his vectoring and speed control was his ability to throw a punch, so the injuries were kept to a minimum.”
Still, Van Iderstine decided to land the aircraft at the small Gwinnett County Airport, about 40 miles northeast of the Atlanta Hartsfield airport, for the safety of his passengers.
“I truly felt that if the control tower at Atlanta found out they had an air traffic controller altercation occurring on-board, they would quickly storm my aircraft and an all-out brawl would ensue.”
“I truly felt that if the control tower at Atlanta found out they had an air traffic controller altercation occurring on-board, they would quickly storm my aircraft and an all-out brawl would ensue,” he said. “I went to a bar once that was hosting an air traffic controller get together where a fight broke out once over a new special operating procedure,” Van Iderstine said, shaking his head. “It’s not something you want to experience.”
“My children were fearing for their life,” said one passenger who wished to be unnamed. “That guy needs to go back to his security tower and leave the real air traffic controllers alone.”
“That guy needs to go back to his security tower and leave the real air traffic controllers alone.”
Delta has offered to refund the ticket cost to all passengers who were on-board flight 2145, and has issued an official statement on their website. Still, some passengers were less than thrilled.
“It’s one thing to subject myself to 57 minutes of pure turbulence, but then to have a fight break out? The airline knew these guys were controllers. Why did they put them so close together?”
Others had less of an opinion.
“Those people weren’t even controllers. Where the fuck were their wands?”