The wrong stuff

by The West Virginia Record |
Nov. 2, 2007, 5:12am

It was a main event, if briefly drowned out by an unfortunate sideshow.

But West Virginians should care to know that, Supreme Court Judge Larry Starcher's boorishness aside, justice was eventually served in the case of Colgan Air, the commuter airline operator wrongly accused of firing a pilot because he was Pakistani.

Thanks in part to Colgan's Pakistani-American attorney -- the one Starcher insultingly called "window-dressing" -- we learned that in addition to being non-white, Plaintiff Rao Zahid Khan was also unable to fly a plane all by himself.

Good thing for all of us that even while Starcher stewed, his fellow justices on the Supreme Court were actually listening. They ruled in Colgan's favor late last week, overturning a $50,000+ award granted Khan by the state Human Rights Commission and deciding the plaintiff didn't have a case.

"The degree of inability showed by Mr. Khan to conduct an airplane in a safe manner was egregious,' the Court said.

For the frequent fliers among us, even "egregious" should ring as something of an understatement.

Consider that Khan once lined up on the wrong runway, forcing another pilot to take control of the plane. And he was the only pilot from his Colgan training class unable to reach the rank of "Captain," miserably failing a proficiency test in which he botched a take-off and a landing.

It all led a senior Colgan pilot to opine he "doubted Khan was capable of commanding an airplane."

"He needed a lot of instruction while flying," Capt. David Mayers said.

It sounds to us that, left alone in the cockpit, he was a disaster waiting to happen.

It should go without saying that businesses deserve the right to fire incompetent employees, or at least make subjective judgments about their performance, without fearing they'll always be dragged into court.

Moreover, holding airplane pilots to a lower standard because of the color of their skin defies common sense, also putting all of our lives in danger.

The evidence clearly showed Mr. Khan wasn't fired because of racism or prejudice. He was fired because he couldn't do his job. Brown, black, white or green, he didn't have the right stuff.

More News