Ex-Southwest Airlines pilot sentenced for lewd act on flight

A former pilot from Southwest Airlines was given probation last year, on Friday, after confessing to the act of revealing his private parts to a female co-pilot and viewing adult content on a laptop while on a flight from Philadelphia to Florida. College Park, Md. (AP) —

Michael Haak, 60, was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson to a fine of $5,000 and one year of unsupervised probation. He also expressed remorse for his actions and offered an apology.

During a virtual hearing, Haak expressed, “In a millennium, I never envisioned it would transform into this. It initiated as a mutually agreed upon joke between me and the additional aviator.”

Prosecutors stated in a federal news release that Haak, the first officer, had never met the pilot before the flight to Orlando on August 10, 2020. According to prosecutors, Haak started watching pornographic material on a laptop computer in the cockpit and then undressed and left the pilot’s seat after the plane reached its cruising altitude.

The statement states that while the plane was still flying, the first officer, who was assigned to the aircrew, carried on with her responsibilities. Additionally, Haak participated in inappropriate behavior in the cockpit.

The judge informed Haak that his actions could have affected the well-being of passengers and other colleagues. The co-pilot was said to have experienced a distressing impact as a result. Although the first officer provided a written statement to the court, they did not speak during the hearing on Friday.

Haak “had an obligation to conduct himself in a significantly more responsible way,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Cunningham stated.

“This is not the type of abnormal conduct that anyone should tolerate,” the prosecutor included.

Cunningham provided limited details, yet he mentioned that the initial officer unfortunately faced repercussions due to the incident, which was unrelated to Haak’s involvement.

The prosecutor stated, “She may have been motivated by something, which regardless of what it was, does not justify subjecting someone to this kind of behavior.”

He faced charges in Maryland as it was among the states the aircraft flew over on that particular day. Haak was accused in April of purposefully engaging in a salacious, offensive, or inappropriate behavior in a public location, a misdemeanor that could result in a jail term of up to 90 days.

The suggestion that the judge was not obligated to follow: Federal prosecutors concurred to propose a probationary sentence without obliging Haak to enroll as a sex offender.

The unlawful accusation resulted in the occurrence three weeks following Aug. 31, 2020, which marked his final journey for the Dallas-based carrier. Haak, a Longwood, Florida resident, concluded his career as a pilot for Southwest Airlines after a span of 27 years.

Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz stated that Southwest became aware of Haak’s conduct only after he willingly departed from the airline. Mainz emphasized that the airline does not condone such behavior and will swiftly respond if any evidence supports the allegations.

“Mainz stated that Southwest conducted an investigation regarding the issue and consequently stopped providing Mr. Haak with any benefits that he was eligible to receive due to his departure from the airline. Nevertheless,”.

Michael Salnick, Defense attorney, said Haak had a sterling career as a commercial pilot, receiving numerous letters of support and accolades from colleagues, passengers, and even Southwest CEO and chairman Gary Kelly on the day of his retirement.

“We are fortunate that Southwest has been your residence for such a long time,” Kelly penned.

Haak acknowledges accountability for his behavior and “provides no justifications,” his attorney stated in a legal document.

Salnick contended that Haak should receive a merciful punishment considering his “lifetime of dedication and benevolence.”

He expressed, “In numerous aspects, the consequence has functioned as a means to humble Haak Michael himself and has resulted in public attention, causing embarrassment due to this incident.”