Flight Deck Fiasco: Rockies coach plays pilot on United Airlines journey

Apr 18, 2024, 9:51 PM | Updated: 9:58 pm

Three military aircraft fly over Coors Field during the conclusion of the National Anthem, prior to...

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating what appears to be Colorado Rockies hitting coach Hensley Meulens in the cockpit of the team’s flight to Toronto earlier this month.

The news of the FAA investigation first came from KUSA-Ch. 9, which got a statement from United Airlines that says there was “an unauthorized person in the flight deck.”

“We are deeply disturbed by what we see in that video,” United said in a statement. The airline told KUSA that the video showed “a clear violation of our safety and operational policies.”

The United spokesperson did say to KUSA that the incident happened at cruising altitude when autopilot was engaged.

Below is a tweet of Meulens’ since-deleted Instagram post where it looks like he’s flying the team plane.

KUSA also reported that United has kept the pilots of that flight out of work while it does its own investigation.

The Rockies finished the road trip that took them to Canada with a loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday. It’s probably for the best for now that the Rockies are at home for the next seven games ahead of another international flight later next week taking them to Mexico City for two games against the Houston Astros.

The Rockies went 1-5 on their recent road trip and are now 4-15 on the season, including a woeful 2-11 road mark. Since hiring Meulens before the 2023 season, the Rockies 78 wRC+, an all-encompassing offensive statistic, is the worst mark in Major League Baseball—roughly 22% a league-average offense.

Meulens, 56, has had an extensive playing and coaching career. Before Colorado, he spent the 2022 season as an assistant hitting coach for the New York Yankees.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Meulens began coaching in the early 2000s, getting his first Major League coaching role in 2010 for the San Francisco Giants as a hitting coach. He helped the team to three World Series and was later promoted to bench coach. The Curaçao native took on the same role with the Mets for a season before going across town.

Meulens also played professionally for 17 seasons, including parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues, while also playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball. He represented the Netherlands in the 2000 Summer Olympics and returned to the team as a coach in 2004, going on to also serve as a coach for the country in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and manager in the 2013 tournament.

Last week’s flight was far from Meulens’ first, but it was likely the coach’s first time in the cockpit given the excited caption on his since-deleted Instagram post.


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