According to an AP Article on CNN.com, the chief pilot for Cathay Pacific Airways has been terminated for a fly-by he performed in connection with delivery of a B-777 from Boeing to Cathay Pacific Airways. The article indicates that the pilot departed Paine Field and received approval from the tower for the fly-by. However, the pilot apparently did not receive approval from Cathay Pacific for the maneuver, although the airline had granted approval for similar fly-bys in the past. The airline initially suspended the pilot and later, after video of the fly-by was posted on YouTube and other sites, the pilot was terminated.(The original video was removed from YouTube, but you can see video of the fly-by here.
The article also indicates that the FAA is investigating the incident. It will be interesting to see whether the pilot did, in fact, have FAA approval for the fly-by maneuver. In the event that he didn’t, it is likely that the FAA would pursue enforcement action against the Hong Kong based British pilot if he holds FAA airman certificates. If he does not, it is possible that the FAA could pursue a civil penalty action against the pilot. The FAA could also potentially pursue a civil penalty action against the airline. However, that may be more difficult based upon the airline’s position that it did not approve or otherwise authorize the fly-by. If the fly-by was approved by the FAA tower personnel, then the pilot’s termination would appear to simply present an employment issue rather than a regulatory violation. And, of course, opposing arguments are being asserted as to whether the fly-by presented a safety issue, regardless of whether the maneuver constituted a regulatory violation.
I suspect that most pilots have dreamed or thought about performing a fly-by in some type of aircraft at some point in time during their flying careers: low level flight, heightened sense of speed, and the display of piloting prowess all come to mind as possible motivators. As with most important decisions in life, pilots have to weigh the risks/consequences associated with such a maneuver versus the benefit the pilot will receive to determine whether it is worth it because, at the end of the flight, the pilot will have to live with the results of his or her decision.