A retired Southwest Airlines pilot was put on probation Friday after pleading guilty to watching pornography during a flight from Philadelphia to Florida last year and exposing his genitals to a female first officer.
Michael Haak, 60, was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and a $5,000 fine by U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson,.
Onon a flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport, Haak got out of the pilot’s seat and “disrobed” once the plane reached cruising altitude and started watching pornographic material on a laptop computer in the cockpit, prosecutors said.
Haak did not know the first officer before the flight, according to prosecutors. As the flight continued, Haak engaged in further inappropriate conduct while the first officer continued her duties.
Haak expressed remorse and apologized for his actions during the hearing.
“It started as a consensual prank between me and the other pilot. I never imagined it would turn into this in a thousand years,” Haak said during a remote hearing.
Haak was charged in Maryland because that was the state the plane was flying over during the incident,. He pleaded guilty to intentionally committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act in a public space, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail.
The judge said Haak’s actions had a traumatic effect on the co-pilot and could have impacted the safety of the passengers and other co-workers.
Southwest said in a statement the airline does not tolerate this behavior and only learned of Haak’s behavior after he voluntarily left the airline.
“Nonetheless, Southwest did investigate the matter and as a result, ceased paying Mr. Haak any benefits he was entitled to receive as a result of his separation from (the airline),” Spokesperson Chris Mainz said.
Haak “offers no excuses” and accepts responsibility, said in a court filing, AP reported.
Haak is a resident of Longwood, Florida, and was a Southwest pilot for 27 years. His last flight for the airline was Aug. 31, 2020.