Volaris Fires Pilot Who Recorded Near Accident

Volaris Fires Pilot Who Recorded Near Accident

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Mexican airline Volaris has fired a pilot for recording a near collision on a runway in Mexico City. While the airline is technically justified in doing this, there’s an interesting twist to the story.

Why Volaris fired a pilot for recording

In early May 2022, two Volaris Airbus A320s nearly collided at Mexico City Airport (MEX). One plane was lined up on the runway waiting to take off, while another plane was on final approach to the same runway, and they were within seconds of a catastrophe. It was only when another pilot warned of the situation that the plane on short final performed a go around, and crisis was averted.

At the time we even got a video of the incident, taken from just short of the runway. The video was clearly taken from a pilot in the cockpit, just short of the hold short line of the runway.

As it turns out, the pilot who took that video has been fired by Volaris. Specifically, first officer Libertad Salmeron was fired by Volaris for not following the sterile cockpit procedure, whereby pilots are only supposed to be performing essential tasks while at below 10,000 feet. Obviously using one’s phone and recording a video is not considered an essential task. At the same time, an argument could be made that having a recording of such a serious incident would be useful to investigators.

In Salmeron’s defense, she allegedly got the captain’s permission to record this, and it was also this crew that warned of what was about to happen, and potentially prevented catastrophe. The plane’s brakes were also on, so it was arguably a pretty low risk situation.

Volaris has confirmed in a statement that this pilot has been fired:

“Volaris ended its working relationship with First Official Salmeron for not guaranteeing the fulfillment of sterile cabin procedures and the care of our clients.”

Did she technically violate rules? Yes, of course. But her crew also potentially avoided a huge accident, so you’d think you could balance that out a bit. It sure seems like Volaris was looking for a reason to justify firing this pilot, since of course a video of two Volaris planes nearly crashing isn’t a good look (even if the pilots weren’t at fault).

Aeromexico hires pilot fired by Volaris

Usually it’s rough to lose your job as an airline pilot, especially if you’re fired for not following procedures. However, this story appears to have a happy ending. Aviacionline reports that Aeromexico has hired the pilot that Volaris fired, and that she’s currently being trained as a first officer on the Boeing 737.

Many people didn’t feel great about Volaris’ decision here, and for that matter airline pilot union ASPA also expressed concerns about Volaris’ decision. So it seems that Aeromexico saw an opportunity here.

Bottom line

Volaris fired a pilot for violating sterile cockpit rules, after she recorded a near accident between two other Volaris jets. In the first officer’s defense, she had asked the captain for permission, the brakes were set, and it was her crew that informed controllers of the danger. Still, clearly the airline didn’t appreciate the video being out there, and decided to take action.

It’s not all bad news for the pilot, though, as she has allegedly landed a job at Aeromexico.

What do you make of Volaris firing a pilot in this situation?

Conversations (13)
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  1. P vohra Guest

    Sterile cockpit is from PARKING BRAKE OFF to 10,000ft. Sterile cockpit does NOT apply when parking brake ON. That’s FAR’s. Imagine waiting on a taxiway for 45 mins with parking brake ON and crew cannot say anything to each other other than pertaining to that phase of the flight (Sterile Cockpit). That’s awfully rigid and negative CRM.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      So if the pilots forgot t disengage the Parking Break. They will never violate sterile cockpit?

    2. John Oakley Guest

      Thanks for this important point. I agree with an earlier comment asking how the recording made it on to Twitter, but in light of this reading of the FARs, the person who ought to be fired is the PR chief for Volaris, not the fall gal, Ms. Salmeron. I am glad she is soon to be back in the cockpit for revenue flights.

  2. Bob Guest

    She violated the sterile cockpit, period, but then we all have at one point or another.

    More disturbing than that though, is that when she noticed a major safety problem, her first thought was not to warn the crews, but to get her phone out a make a video.

    That is why she was rightfully fired.

  3. Donna Diamond

    So the Captain in charge who asked her to record the incident keeps his job and she gets fired. To say Volaris has bad leadership is the understatement of the year.

    1. Mh Diamond

      "Asking permission" is very different from being asked/told to do something.

      Not that I support the firing but your wording tries to transfer the blame to the captain.

  4. Gravelly Point Guy Guest

    She just got rehired or “hired “ should I say hired by Aeromexico. Good for her, she surely saved the day!!

  5. D3kingg Guest

    Good intentions or not. That’s against protocol. I’m not so sure I’d be ok with a pilot on their cell phone in flight. You’re at takeoff and using your cell phone ?
    Grounds for termination.

    1. Bob Guest

      It's not like she was on her phone to do some Instagrams. This is a prime example of when people and organizations are so rigid they don't know how to react to obvious need to intervene. It's no different than a guard who is not suppose to leave their post. But if they see someone having a medical issue should that guard stay seated or assist. And if they assist they sound be fired for...

      It's not like she was on her phone to do some Instagrams. This is a prime example of when people and organizations are so rigid they don't know how to react to obvious need to intervene. It's no different than a guard who is not suppose to leave their post. But if they see someone having a medical issue should that guard stay seated or assist. And if they assist they sound be fired for breaking protocol? Stupid. There is a fine line and when potential lost of life is evident the fine line can and should be moved.

  6. Brandon Biden Guest

    Wow, She clearly called for the Go Around, and LIKELY saved a catastrophe, had the plane on Short Final come in low...would have been Michael Jackson BAD!

    Volaris should not have fired her and will regret it one day. Well Played 1st Officer

  7. Eskimo Guest

    Does it even violate "sterile cockpit" as this was critical for the safety of the (other) airplane(s) and a collision could potentially eject debris that any recording can help identify potentially hazardous objects from the collision.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      @Eskimo - I think (no specific information) that the issue may be more of how the recording got into the public domain than if it had just been preserved as an accident/incident investigation resource.

      There are thousands of videos out there that have been filmed in violation of sterile cockpit regulations all around the world. Most of them don't make it to the interwebs. When they do, actions have consequences.

    2. Roger N Guest

      Right or wrong the video provides more evidence that things have got crazy at Mexico City airport. I don't feel safe flying there anymore. The issue with the main and the new satellite airport seems likely to lead to a disaster before long. Another triumph for AMLO!!

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Bob Guest

It's not like she was on her phone to do some Instagrams. This is a prime example of when people and organizations are so rigid they don't know how to react to obvious need to intervene. It's no different than a guard who is not suppose to leave their post. But if they see someone having a medical issue should that guard stay seated or assist. And if they assist they sound be fired for breaking protocol? Stupid. There is a fine line and when potential lost of life is evident the fine line can and should be moved.

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Sean M. Diamond

@Eskimo - I think (no specific information) that the issue may be more of how the recording got into the public domain than if it had just been preserved as an accident/incident investigation resource. There are thousands of videos out there that have been filmed in violation of sterile cockpit regulations all around the world. Most of them don't make it to the interwebs. When they do, actions have consequences.

3
Gravelly Point Guy Guest

She just got rehired or “hired “ should I say hired by Aeromexico. Good for her, she surely saved the day!!

2
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