BIRMINGHAM, AL – Two Southwest Airlines pilots were taken into custody this morning by Birmingham airport police after aborting their takeoff, a violation of state law.
Lt. Dan Hazelton of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Police Department said Southwest Airlines Captain Ryan Bertrand and First Officer Katrina Lisbon were arrested upon returning to gate C3 after their plane experienced a mechanical issue just before taking off.
The aviators were suspected of performing an aborted takeoff. Their flight — Southwest 7338 to Chicago Midway Airport — was a few seconds into its takeoff roll down runway 24. Captain Bertrand was at the controls when both he and First Officer Lisbon noticed “a couple of system warning lights come on.”
“We weren’t yet at decision speed and decided to reject takeoff,” said Captain Bertrand. “No biggie. It was a completely safe maneuver and one we’ve practiced countless times during our careers. So I asked First Officer Katrina to inform the tower we were aborting takeoff.”
However, in a state with one of the country’s strictest abortion laws, and in the wake of the recent Roe v. Wade ruling, aborted takeoffs have been banned.
After informing the tower of the rejected takeoff, the plane returned to the gate where they were met by local law enforcement who immediately took the pilots into custody and temporarily impounded the air carrier’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
In prepared remarks, Lt Hazelton noted, “We take all forms of abortion seriously here in Alabama. Under no circumstances will abortion of any type be tolerated. These pilots will face the full weight of our archaic legal system.”