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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Pilot Says He Was Fired Because He’s Muslim

MIAMI (CN) - An Algerian man says Spirit Airlines wrongly branded him as a potential terrorist and reported him to the FBI merely because e asked about the so-called "takeover switch" during flight training.

In a complaint filed in the federal court in Miami, Ilyes Yakoub says he applied for a position as a pilot with Spirit Airlines in August 2013, and was hired at an initial salary of $1,000 per month with a $750 per diem as he completed flight training.

Yakoub says throughout his training, he "consistently received notes from his training instructors on his daily training syllabus indicating that he was doing an exemplary job."

He says that on September 17, 2013, he was given his oral examination, and advised that he had successfully passed the examination. Afterwards, his instructor asked if he had any questions.

"Mr. Yakoub replied that he needed some clarification as to exactly how the Priority Switched worked on the joystick of the Airbus 329/320/321. Mr. Yakoub referred to the Priority Switch as a Takeover Switch, which terminology is used by pilots, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others."

Two weeks after his oral exam, three FBI agents interrogated Yakoub at his home. The agents told Yakoub a complaint was made about him and his question regarding the priority switch. The Spirit flight instructor also told the FBI that Yakoub made "anti-American" statements.

Yakoub said the question was only asked because he would soon by flying that type of plane and wanted to be fully up to speed to ensure the operational safety of his flights. If a pilot does not understand the proper operation of a Priority Switch on a particular airplane, the results can be catastrophic, he said.

On October 5, 2013, Yakoub's simulator partner took his final exam; Yakoub says he however was denied the opportunity and relegated to "non-flying pilot tasks" during the test.

He says his own final exam was rescheduled twice before received an October 7, 2013, call from the head of the school, telling him to come to the training center and to bring all of his Spirit Airlines company materials with him.

Yakoub said when he arrived he was told he was being fired and was handed a termination letter stating, in part, that he had contributed to his simulator partner's failure.

Yakoub notes in his complaint that despite failing the final exam, his partner, a Catholic of Jamaican decent, was not fired. He also claims that ultimately every other student in the training class was hired, except for him and another Middle Eastern man who was also a Muslim.

Yakoub seeks back pay, front pay, lost benefits and punitive damages on claims Spirit Airlines violated his Civil Rights under Title VII as well as under Florida anti-discrimination statutes, and negligent supervision.

He is represented by Robert Parks of Miami, Fla., and Daniel Barks, of Alexandria, Virginia.

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