Looks Like we Hit a Nerve With That Delta Story
Plus: Sexism at Qantas (shocker!) & more Sten Molin victims come forward
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I want to thank The Landing’s paid subscribers once again, and to welcome the newest ones. I appreciate it more than you know.
Since publishing an article about the lawsuit filed by Delta Air Lines Captain Andrea Ratfield, I’ve had a taste of what women in the airline industry go through when they dare to report harassment, assault and/or discrimination.
It’s brutal out there. Who knew that being brave enough to share what happened to you and/or standing up for women who have been harmed would be controversial?
Andrea’s story attracted more readers than anything I’ve published here before.
The important takeaway is that the vast majority of public comments across the internet (as opposed to those in private forums I don’t have access to) were supportive.
But the loudest individuals were those who are sick and tired of men being accused of harming “crazy” women. They are angry. At Andrea, and at me for engaging in basic journalism 101 by reporting on news of a public lawsuit.
And, while there are always more of us than there are of them, it’s not easy. What can we do to make it safer and more comfortable for victims to come forward?
For starters, we can keep doing what we’re doing. Keep speaking up. Air it out, make it harder for people to get away with casually harassing, assaulting and discriminating, band together to make it less acceptable to behave like neanderthals in the workplace, and create forums where victims feel safe to talk about what happened to them.
The Apologists & Bullies Enter the Chat
Let’s unpack what kind of very public intimidation tactics victims are subjected to when they dare to speak out.
After the last story ran, a Twitter pilot who calls herself Captain Cruella, who I surmise flies for Delta, stepped onto my page to chime in about her fellow pilot’s story, one she admits she knows nothing about. She had also posted this on her timeline:
That’s what’s making you tired? A majority of women in aviation say they’re victims of harassment, assault and/or discrimination but it’s the men being called out for this behaviour that’s making you “very tired?”
A Women in Aviation International survey says 62% of respondents think sexual harassment “remains a significant problem in the industry,” 71% said they were sexually harassed in the workplace or another professional aviation setting, and 81% had witnessed sexual harassment.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIAAB) final report determined that:
“Male-dominated culture, widespread sexual harassment and discrimination, financial barriers to career entry and lack of gender-specific support systems are main reasons women remain significantly underrepresented in aviation and aerospace.”
Yet Cruella’s instinct—her choice—was to publicly stick up for the men who allegedly harmed her colleague.
Cruella gets to have her opinion and her own lived experience and her male friends. But when you work in an industry where you and your fellow women make up only 3-4% of pilots and you go out of your way to seek out a female colleague’s heart-wrenching story and publicly cape for men you only think you know, you are part of the problem. Other options include saying nothing and letting the process play out.
But you’re not waiting for a court of law to decide. You’ve made up your mind: the men, the poor men, are being unfairly maligned. Here’s what she wrote on my page:
So…why say anything at all? First thing that jumps out at me is “neither have any of the numerous female pilots I know.”
Maybe that’s true—as far as Cruella knows. The women she works with possibly know better than to share with her? Maybe they suspect she’ll side with their harassers/assailants over them, that she’ll disbelieve them because she has “never been treated” that way?
Note to all women: What a man did or didn’t do to you has absolutely no bearing on what he did to another woman. Zero. Zilch.
Cruella’s response to me responding to her was not convincing:
I didn’t ask her to side with anyone. She made the decision to @ me and pick a side, and I suspect she did so without reading Andrea Ratfield’s very detailed lawsuit.
Anyway, before Cruella entered the chat, an anonymous angry man (the cowards always hide) instigated a weak and repetitive argument with me. He got into it with a few women on my Twitter page for a few days and then deleted his account.
Here are two of his tweets:
First off, I contacted Delta about this case just as any news outlet would. Second, this male pilot further accused me of naming men who were a) innocent and b) not mentioned in the lawsuit. Wrong again, Mr. h39291. Where am I going to get the name of a random Delta pilot and throw him in a story? Never happened.
He didn’t specify which pilots in Capt. Ratfield’s lawsuit he was defending, and his passion in sending a barrage of tweets leads one to suspect he might be one of them himself…but who knows.
I’m interested to know if he’s storming CNN and the New York Times’s Twitter pages this week to complain about their coverage of various lawsuits? Is this male pilot enraged at stories like this that forensically outline the bombshell lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against Lizzo, a singer known for body positivity and woman power?
Of course he isn’t. Because it’s not unfair news coverage he’s fuming about. He wants women in his industry to be quiet. He wants us to know our place and let the Old Boys’ Club conduct its business unhindered.
The sheer number of tweets he sent making the same point over and over exhibited the type of bullying behavior women often face at work. He just kept going, uninvited, unwanted, trying to assert his dominance. He felt entitled to my time and attention and didn’t want to stop until I backed down and told him he was right.
When I got bored, I blocked him, and he whined about how I was “hiding.” LOL. Note to all harassers and abusers and stalkers: blocking isn’t “hiding.” It’s power. You don’t get to demand anything from me, and you aren’t owed my time or a response.
They can’t hurt me or shut me up and it drives them bananas. They can’t bully me out of a job, because I don’t work for them.
They don’t scare me. They don’t intimidate me.
Anyway, back to fairness and journalistic ethics. My door is always open.
If you have been named in the lawsuit and want to refute any claims and will identify yourself the same way Andrea Ratfield did in her legal documents, I’m here to listen.
(Regarding his second tweet, yep, this male pilot went old school with the 1950s-era trope that if you’re a woman making allegations about the horrible things men did to you, you’re “crazy.” I don’t think they’re sending out their best people to do the arguing).
Meanwhile, over on LinkedIn, an Airbus executive mansplained that Capt. Ratfield’s story was “sensationalist” and didn’t belong on LinkedIn.
If what she says happened to her sounds “sensationalist” to you, maybe that’s an even better reason to read her whole story, pay attention, get involved, and consider maybe things need to change in your industry?
A Note About Predators and Masking
By now most of you know my personal experience with men living double lives.
I’ve been regularly harassed since the day I published a two-part series about my old friend Sten Molin* back in September 2021 to mark the 20th anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587. From there I went down the proverbial rabbit hole.
I was faced with my own twist ending when it turned out that the “erudite” pilot I went on a weekend blind date with a few years before the crash, the “gentleman” who showed me how to eat my first freshly shucked oyster at his friend’s fancy Newport wedding, was a serial rapist and pedophile.
You know what I didn’t say? Not one single time? Not to one single victim? “But he never assaulted me!”
Because I knew it didn’t matter. I got lucky.
Many people, including his old pilot pals at various airlines—some of whom I’m told are still harassing or assaulting women—didn’t like me acknowledging what his victims have been saying for decades.
It’s the same old story: Too many people are more concerned about a dead man’s reputation than they are about 50-plus live victims who suffer the pain of his assaults every day. If you’re one of those, you need to check your moral compass.
It still blows me away when women blindly defend men they work with. How could you possibly know what these men get up to when they’re not with you? As we speak, the accused Gilgo Beach serial killer’s family is wrecked, shocked and traumatized because the New York architect masked so well.
No, I’m not saying a male pilot giggling about another pilot’s breasts is comparable to a man who murdered 10 people. The point is that you can murder 10 people and those around you will still say you’re a nice, upstanding man because you masked so well.
The BTK killer’s daughter is all over Twitter still processing the fact she lived with her church-council-president Cub-Scout-leader family-man serial killer father her whole life and never knew.
If you enter “pastor arrested for molestation” (or “sexual abuse beloved coach” or any combination of these search terms) into Google, you’ll encounter a smorgasbord of news reports about Not Him, He’s a Good Guy! predators.
If they can hide it so well, some guy flying next to you to Cincinnati isn’t going to have a problem masking his true self. You simply cannot know.
For the record: I’m not saying your friends did anything wrong. I’m saying be honest about what you’re actually pissed off about.
Wait—Qantas has a sexual harassment problem?!
Please excuse me while I recover from the shock of this latest report. It’s not like I’ve received reams of emails, messages and comments in the past couple years about how Sten Molin and some of his mates over at Qantas treated women like pieces of meat.
Qantas’ chief pilot has slammed comments written about female pilots in an online forum as “offensive” and “completely unacceptable”.
Posts from the forum claiming there was “a rapid influx of female pilots of a certain age group spawning offspring and then wanting flexible work arrangements” and that they had “much more of an advantage at the moment in every area” were published by the Herald Sun on Tuesday.
The newspaper reported that it was believed the forum was moderated by a Qantas captain.
Qantas confirmed to news.com.au two of the pilots in the group no longer work for the company and a third is under investigation and not currently flying.
This kind of talk sounds familiar. Where have I seen this recently? Oh, right—Delta pilots have been bloviating around a forum about my last story. On this thread in the Delta forum you’ll see some seriously sexist crap flying around.
I don’t know if one of Delta’s male pilots has a breastfeeding fetish or what, but at least one dinosaur seized on that tiny part of Capt. Ratfield’s lawsuit and really went for it. There were some choice responses rebutting him, thankfully.
This one guy called pumping breast milk “inappropriate” even though he must know that women at these airlines historically/generally have nowhere else do to so. The anonymous handle “Stratoliner” (because cowards always hide) sarcastically paraphrased one of the people trying to talk sense into him:
"It's okay for me to do this inappropriate thing in this place because there isn't anywhere better"
Another male pilot in that forum literally made up a scenario out of whole cloth in order to excuse the man and discredit the woman. Wrote a guy with the handle LAXtoDEN:
“Some of these claims makes me wonder if she was leading them on. The finger joke is extremely unprofessional from here [sic] side of the story. But what if SHE was the one who pointed out the shirt first and laughed and made her fellow crew member think it was all in good fun, then boom, reported.”
What if? What if Leprachauns were dancing on your wing? What if your car was made out of chocolate? What—and I can’t stress this enough—the fuck?
“Leading on” to these men=posessing a female body and existing. They’re telling on themselves here in ways that validate every single thing women in the airline industry—ground, cockpit, cabin—have told me.
“The woman sounds nuts. Multiple stories of harassment in all different kinds of situations, sounds like she has a drinking problem, probably loses her inhibitions, then feels bad about it and blames everyone but herself.”
Note to Delta, this is utterly outrageous. Horrified, I emailed a source at a major airline. They said this kind of talk is common in pilot forums. They’re bored on layovers, this source said, and “probably drunk.”
Sounds totally normal.
Delta, are you going to take the lead from Qantas and speak out against this kind of talk about women in your ranks?
A Final Note: More Sten Molin Victims
One of the aforementioned pilots in that Delta forum came for Andrea, but also me, in yet another post:
“This isn't a woman problem. Only a handful of pilots cause most of the trouble for management, and she was probably one of them. Had nothing to do with being a woman. And if you look at the substack author who wrote her story, she's also trying to make a story out of the FO who ripped the tail off the AA587 Airbus A300 over 20 years ago. Really stretching with little info to back it up.”
LOL. “Little info to back it up.”
How many more victims would you want American Airlines to pay off, how many more victims would you require to publicly share graphic details about their assaults by Sten Molin, how many more cracking, wavering voices would you want me to listen to before you deem it OK to say American Airlines Flight 587 pilot Sten Molin was a serial rapist, pedophile, sex pest and predator?
We already know the answer: It’s infinity. There is no number high enough. The reputation of a dead man will always matter more to these people than the victims whose lives were never the same after what he did to them.
Luckily, it’s not up to guys like this what Sten Molin’s rape victims say or where they say it.
On that note, a trigger and content warning: More of his victims have come forward in the past weeks, both of them underage girls at the time. They found this story that’s making the rounds, apparently, and shared their truths.
They tell stories of being underage and assaulted by Sten Molin, adding to an ever-growing crowd of victims. Think about what it took for them to go back to that time and write it out so their voices are heard. The strength and bravery it required.
I’ll be posting a full updated count of his victims before long, along with a guide to reading The Landing and the story of how it came to be so it’s all in one place.
Thank you for reading.
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*At the request of his victims, that 2-part series was taken down and will never be republished.