Southwest Airlines investigating incident involving pilot

Friday, February 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Southwest Airlines has placed a pilot on leave while it looks into a disturbance he was involved in at Will Rogers World Airport, a company spokeswoman said Thursday.

According to an Oklahoma City police report, pilot Larry Hargus became agitated Tuesday at the time it took to search his bag at a security checkpoint. Hargus asked screeners twice to search his bag so he could walk to his aircraft, the report stated.

At that point, a National Guard member assigned to airport security asked Hargus for identification. Hargus lifted the identification badge on his shirt but would not remove the card when the guard member asked, the report stated.

When the guard member grabbed the tag from Hargus' shirt, Hargus responded by grabbing the identification tag on the guard member's shirt, the report stated. Police then arrived and mediated the dispute.

According to the report, Hargus told officers he was not upset that his bag was being searched, but that it wasn't searched immediately.

After talking to Southwest ground personnel Hargus made a phone call, during which he stepped into the hall and began loudly telling passengers at another gate why the plane was late, the report said.

Hargus was not allowed to fly and was escorted from the security area. When he returned in civilian clothes to fly as a passenger, a Southwest supervisor would not allow him on the flight Tuesday, the report stated.

``The investigation is ongoing, and our pilot is on leave during the investigation,'' Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Brewer said.

Karen Carney, spokeswoman for Oklahoma City airports, said airport employees and flight crews are screened like everyone else.

``I think it's important for people to realize that everybody is being screened, and the screeners aren't making exceptions for anyone,'' Carney said.

Brewer said the post-Sept. 11 security measures are not easy on employees, but they are necessary.

``It's an adjustment for all of us here at Southwest Airlines, but all of our employees try to comply as closely as possible to the security regulations. This would be an isolated incident.''