Incident Report Press Release

The station manager at one of the cities you serve just called and reported that the captain of the aircraft that just landed had keeled over in the cockpit as the plane was about to land. The first officer quickly took the controls, circled the field as he pushed the captain’s limp body away from the controls, and safely landed the aircraft. The aircraft was met by an ambulance, and the captain was taken to the hospital for observation. Except for surprise at the turn of events, the passengers did not know of the potentially dangerous situation that had occurred. The station manager made this call to headquarters before the press came around for a statement. He believed the passengers had all left the terminal without talking to anyone from the press but could not be sure. He was asking your headquarters staff for advice.
A staff meeting was quickly called. One of the officials felt that since the passengers were not fully aware of the situation, the whole affair should be kept as quiet as possible. Another said that sooner or later the press would find out and demand a response. In addition, a report would have to be made to the FAA within 24 hours. Once that report was made, the records would become available to the press under the open records law. Another staff member thought the affair should be kept quiet until pressure was put on the airline for information. “Perhaps the whole thing will dissipate on its own, within time,” he said. Another believed that honesty was the best policy although it could radically hurt business; the flying public may be turned off by the incident and refuse to fly the airline until some time had passed. A lively debate followed but was soon interrupted by a phone call from the hospital. The captain had a mild heart attack but would be OK. This was even worse news than if it had merely been an episode of heartburn. Here are the choices available:
1. Quickly prepare a press release saying the captain had suffered some type of mishap and had to be taken to the hospital. No other details would be released. As one staff member put it, “Give them something but not the whole story. This could be very harmful to our image.”
2. Advise all members of the company to adhere to a “no comment” policy and hope the whole thing will be quickly forgotten. “After all,” stated one person, “we are under no obligation to tell the public everything that happens around here.”
3. Prepare a succinct press release, as described below, along with a “no further comment” notice to the staff: “The captain aboard flight 27 became ill during the flight and was taken to the hospital upon landing for observation.”
4. Send the CEO on a quick “business trip” and respond to all inquiries with, “The CEO is not available and company policy states that only he/she can make announcements about the airline.” It is hoped this action will take the immediate heat off the situation and it will be forgotten by most people by the time the CEO returns a week later.
5. Prepare a press release that gives all the details of the incident.
6. One staff member believes the airline can gain positive publicity by releasing the following press release: “First Officer Larry Jones took heroic action in saving the aircraft and passengers in a potentially serious situation through his fast action in the cockpit, etc.”
**Explain why you made that choice**

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