“I couldn’t risk the passengers’ lives,” reasoned Captain Jeremy Squall, defending his decision to deny Daniel Glynn, aged 7, the opportunity to “really fly the plane.” It’s a common practice to let excited children take the wheel while autopilot is engaged, giving them the impression they’re flying the aircraft. One airline pilot we interviewed described it as “like letting your kids believe in Santa Claus, except without the crushing realization they’re attributing your generosity to a rotund fictional saint, setting them up for a lifetime of smoldering resentment.”
But young Glynn was denied this wholesome experience. “His legs clearly didn’t work properly. You can tell from the wheelchair,” said Squall at the press conference we attended. “It would have severely compromised his ability to hold the control wheel with his hands.”
A spokesperson for the airline, Flyin’ Air, stood by Squall. “Every child we let into the cockpit is carefully vetted over a period of seconds, with a quick glance. Daniel did not meet our high performance standards, unlike a lot of seven-year-olds.”
“It wasn’t an easy choice,” Squall said in his own defense. “A disabled child flying a plane? The level of pure inspiration would be off the charts. But measured against the safety of everyone on board, well, I had to take the risk of them going uninspired.”
When asked if he knew that children were not actually supposed to take control over the aircraft, only pretend, Squall responded, “Yeah. Sure. I knew that.” Although no further statements were given, it’s possible Flyin’ Air will distance itself from Squall in the coming weeks, considering the spokesperson reacted to his statement by slowly walking backwards out of the room.
In sitting down with the Glynn family afterwards, it was clear Daniel’s parents are devastated. “We’re not that devastated,” they said. We couldn’t help but respect their resilience in not breaking down into a shivering wreck of tears. “But it is a bummer. He used to dream about being a pilot. Now he says that’s no longer a dream of his.”
“I wanted to be a pilot when I growed up,” the young Glynn said. “Now I think I’m gonna be the guy who fires pilots.”