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News Release

Release #82.g
August 16, 2001

Henderson Pilot Honored With ALPA Safety Volunteer Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Robert Porkolab, an Alaska Airlines first officer and resident of Henderson, NV, was awarded a Presidential Citation for Outstanding Service in Air Safety from the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). The award was presented on Aug. 15, 2001, at the Association’s annual Air Safety Forum.

ALPA honored Porkolab for his heroic actions to control a disruptive passenger during a March 2000 flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco. The captain of the flight, Clifton "Gene" Rowe, also was honored with a Presidential Citation award. While the pilot’s MD-80 was airborne, a 250-pound man became violent and assaulted several crewmembers and passengers while trying to break into the flight deck. The passenger threatened to kill the passengers, and revealed that he intended to crash the aircraft. After breaking through the locked flight-deck security door, he tried to grab the airplanes fuel control handles in an attempt to shut off the engines.

Once the disruptive passenger was in the flight deck, Porkolab grabbed the crash axe and prevented the passenger from reaching the aircraft’s controls. With the aid of seven other passengers, the man was subdued until an emergency landing could be made. During the struggle, Porkolab’s hand was injured, yet he maintained his professional composure until Capt. Rowe was able to land the airplane successfully and authorities arrested the passenger.

Porkolab now flies the Boeing 737 for Alaska Airlines, and is based in Los Angeles. His professional flying career began with Yute Air in Alaska. Before joining Alaska Airlines, Prokolab also flew for Pen Air. Porkolab attended the University of North Dakota, where he received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical studies with a minor in criminal justice.

ALPA is the union representing most commercial airline pilots in North America, and is the industry’s leading safety advocate. It represents 66,000 pilots at 47 carriers in the U.S. and Canada.


ALPA Contacts: John Mazor, Anya Piazza (703) 481-4440