Bahadır Altan, a former pilot, has lost his job twice for his unionizing efforts and letting out information that concerns the public. He was detained during the protests against the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant as well as the demonstrations organized to show solidarity with the workers of the 3rd Istanbul Airport. There is also an action for compensation against him because of a speech he made in 2019 regarding an Atlas Jet plane crash in Isparta back in 2007.
Altan graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1978. Up until 1992, he served as a test pilot for F-4 jets and a teacher in the Air Force. He was detained, interrogated and locked up in a cell twice for his political beliefs, once in 1982 and for a second time in 1984. He stood trial on charges of being a member of an illegal organization in 1984, from which he was acquitted and allowed back to his job. In 1992, he retired from the Air Force as ‘service-disabled’ for his hearing loss.
He was a teacher pilot and faculty for the following six years in Anadolu University College of Civil Aviation. He joined the Eskişehir branch of Atatürkçü Düşünce Derneği (Association of Ataturkist Thought) after journalist Uğur Mumcu’s assassination.
In 1998, Altan started working for Turkish Airlines, where he was the workplace representative for the Flight Operations branch of the union Hava-İş Sendikası. He fought against the bending of rules dictating flight and rest periods to the detriment of workers, strived for installing the application of world standards in civil aviation and collective labor contract.
Following Atlas Jet’s Isparta crash in 2007, he led the way in the union in organizing a symposium titled “Calling actors to action for zero accidents”.
Altan was transferred to the disciplinary board in order to remove him from his position on grounds of his statements to the press regarding the strike voting in 2007. He was removed from office in 2008. He was not hired back despite his win in the reemployment lawsuit. Hava-İş made a press release about the situation stating “Turkish Airlines do not fancy pilots who follow the rules, who do not overrun flight limits; or in short, they don’t want pilots defending their occupational code of ethics and flight safety against profits and company’s commercial motives. What they want is a group of docile pilots who think anything is acceptable as long as it brings more profits.”
In 2009, Bahadır Altan got involved in the dissident movement within Hava-İş, Rainbow, where he advocated an amateur work model based around a union run by the workers.
In his weekly columns in Airkule, a website on aviation, he called attention to the risks of unplanned growth and work fatigue.
In 2010, Associate Professor Muzaffer Çetingüç joined Altan in his efforts for building the Academy of Civil Aviation. This academy contained experts gathered around the belief that the truth was being kept from the public.
He was among the founders of the Kadıköy Peace Front (Kadıköy Barış Bloğu) in 2015, where they immediately started a Peace Watch (Barış Nöbeti). Every night for one hour, Peace Watch put together activities in front of the Süreyya Opera Building in Kadıköy, Istanbul where the people were informed on the truth about the war and asked to sign a petition. When they’ve reached 50.000 petitioners, they submitted it to TBMM (the Turkish Parliament).
In February of 2017, having heard the news that entering and exiting were blocked by the police and military police (jandarma) to the Xeraba Bava village (Kuruköy) in Nusaybin, Mardin, he joined the other Peace Front activists in their trip to the region aimed at covering and letting the public know what is happening there. The same year, in December, he went to Rojava with a group of people to follow the elections and later published his observations in the news website Gazetekarinca.
On April 3, 2018, he was one of the activists taking part in the demonstration against the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant organized in Kadıköy’s Yoğurtçu Park. On the same day, the groundbreaking ceremony was taking place for the power plant. Not even waiting until the demonstration to start, the police detained 6 people, Altan being one of them. They were released after 24 hours of detention.
On September 15, 2018, he was in Kadıköy’s Khalkedon Square for a press statement that was going to address in solidarity, the detention of workers for their strike action for protesting the workplace homicides and the working conditions in the construction of the 3rd airport. The police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd. Altan was detained once again.
Oktay Erdağı, the vice president of Civil Aviation during the Isparta crash in 2007, sued Altan searching compensation for insulting him in a speech Altan gave in the January 2019 meeting of the Platform for Solidarity with the 3rd Airport Workers. The second hearing for this lawsuit will take place on May 7, 2020.
The chain of events resulting in Altan losing his job for the second time started on February 5 of this year when a Pegasus Airlines plane drove off the track and crashed during landing causing 3 deaths. Altan, also an employee of Pegasus Airlines, joined a live broadcast on CNN Turk on February 7 to discuss the crash. He claimed that the newly opened 3rd Airport could be blamed for the crash as well. This was the first time the public was made aware of the way the new airport was affecting air-traffic and that this was posing a collision and crash hazard. Altan was immediately taken off the air. Shortly after, Pegasus, alleging valid grounds, terminated his employment.