John Scott Masthead
July 12 2012 at 11:09

I appear, M’lud, as counsel for the defence of Dirk Feldman, Member of Parliament, who tried to leave an SAA flight in mid-air between SA and India.

It is alleged he was inebriated at the time and indeed, who in his right mind would do such a thing unless he had had a drink or two?

When sober my client is a most sensible person and would not dream of trying to walk on air, especially thin air at an altitude of 35 000ft.

Believe me, he is no Captain Oates inclined to tell fellow passengers: “I am just going outside and may be some time.”

It could be that he was very nervous of flying and decided to bolster his courage by partaking of alcoholic beverages, especially as they were freely available. Many passengers resort to liquor for the same reason, though not all then wish to disembark before landing.

He is a member of Cope, a party that has lost a lot of its members since its formation.

Mr Feldman may have felt that by leaping from an aircraft in full view of everybody, including some fellow parliamentarians, he would be making more of a final statement.

He also showed consideration for the cabin crew. Had he acted drunkenly while the aircraft was still taxiing, he would have delayed the flight while the plane returned to the terminal buildings to offload him.

But he didn’t.

He waited until the flight was high over the Indian Ocean and only then gave the impression of being drunk as a lord – beg pardon, M’lud.

And if I may ask, why did the stewards and stewardess continue serving him liquor when it was clear he could no longer hold it and it was spouting, as it were, out of his ears?

He may well have been provoked into drinking to excess by the excitement of visiting India.

In some parts of the sub-continent, liquor is hard to come by, and my client may have been trying to compensate for a possible period of abstinence.

In the same way, M’lud, that camels fill up at an oasis before crossing a waterless stretch of desert.

It could also have had something to do with the Indian air, which in the days of the British Raj, drove many expatriates to drink.

Even today, Indian pilots themselves are not immune. Earlier this month an Air India pilot due to fly an Airbus A320 from Delhi to Jammu twice failed a breathlyser test.

And in February an Air India flight instructor was suspended for being drunk before he could fly from Chennai to Madurai.

Left to their own devices, they too might have tried to leave by the emergency exit in mid-flight.

Finally, may I ask what harm my client really did, apart from undermining respect for the SA Parliament, which never commanded much in the first place?

How can you possibly compare his pecadillo with the antics, for example, of rock star Peter Buck of REM, who on a British Airways flight last year attacked a steward with a pot of yoghurt and was so drunk he tried to insert a CD into a hostess’s trolley?

All Mr Feldman wanted was a breath of fresh air, and was thwarted in his attempt to gain access to it.

Why should a man be punished for going to such extreme lengths to sober up?

M’lud, I rest my case.


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