Sacked airline pilot `caressed' by captain

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The sacked airline pilot Sandra Valentine told an industrial tribunal yesterday that the captain of a plane she was co-piloting "persistently" felt her thigh during a flight to Portugal.

Ms Valentine, 36, blushed as she described how Captain Steve George allegedly caressed her on the trip in October 1993.

She said: "I picked up his hand and placed it back where it belonged but he just carried on persistently touching me."

Ms Valentine, of Knowle, Warwickshire, who lost her job a year ago, is suing the Guernsey-based Airtours company for unfair dismissal through sexual discrimination.

She told the tribunal in Birmingham: "He then tried to persuade me to go away with him for a weekend in Cornwall.

"I felt intimidated but I tried to laugh it off, saying that a member of the cabin crew had made a complaint about him for sexual harassment not long before.

"He told me that he had just touched her up for a bit of fun, and when she complained, his superiors had told him: `You silly bastard, don't do it again.' He then just laughed and carried on touching me."

Earlier, Ms Valentine told the Birmingham tribunal how another pilot, Captain Jonathan Porter, had ignored her and insulted her during a flight back to Birmingham from the Faroe Islands and Portugal in November 1993.

Ms Valentine said: "He was very insulting towards me and flatly refused to allow me to be involved in the flight. Captains are supposed to go through the flight plan, which involves checking the weather and the routes etc, with me or allowing me to do italone and then go through it themselves afterwards.

"It is all about teamwork but Captain Porter just ignored me. He said there was no teamwork on this aircraft, it was only the two of us and one of us did not count at all.

"His flying was totally appalling and he was not even following standard operating procedure.

"The passengers had a very bumpy ride on that flight.

"When I tactfully pointed this out his response was: `Shut up, I am the captain and I will do as I please, you stupid bloody woman.'

"He then ordered me to keep quiet and make him a coffee, which is a job for the cabin crew, and something male pilots would never be asked to do."

Ms Valentine also describedanother flight with Captain Porter and training officer Jeff Williams on his twice-yearly piloting check, known as a line check.

She said: "We were flying into Faroe and Captain Porter's descent was a shambles.

"It soon became clear that the aircraft was flying too high and too fast to land. "It was obvious that Jonathan Porter was not in the correct position to land and had totally misjudged the descent.

"He then asked me to tell air traffic control that he wanted to go over and out to sea.

"This was not a regular request and I thought to myself, `he cannot be serious'.

"Air traffic control came back and ordered us on another course. I thought the aircraft was getting too low, so I told him this as we were flying at 900ft.

"The landing was very heavy and lockers inside the aircraft flung open and passengers'

baggage fell out.

"The whole thing was a shambles.

"Afterwards, Captain Porter said that I had misinterpreted his instructions to air traffic control and that I was not competent.

"He seemed to be blaming it all on me," she said.

"Jeff Williams, the training officer, made no comment whatsoever."

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.