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Canadian flight simulator company faces criticism after firing instructor

The flight simulator company featured prominently in CNN's coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is facing criticism for its decision to fire one of its instructors.

Mitchell Casado, a flight instructor who became a familiar face on CNN's broadcasts for his work with reporter Martin Savidge, was fired by uFly owner Claudio Teixeira on Wednesday, in part, because he "shamed Canadians" by dressing like a teenager during CNN's coverage, The Associated Press reported.

When The Globe and Mail contacted Mr. Teixeira to ask about its company dress code, he referred to a written statement released Thursday afternoon, which contained no insight into the company's clothing policy.

The statement said Mr. Casado was an "independent consultant" – not an employee – and that a "difference of opinion" ultimately resulted in uFly ending its relationship with Mr. Casado.

It continues: "Mr. Teixeira sincerely apologizes for any misunderstanding and had no intention of offending fellow Canadians or anyone else for that matter."

As it turns out, a few people are already offended.

While Twitter reaction to Mr. Casado's termination was been varied, some people have been tweeting their support:

Teixeira said he received many e-mail complaints about the instructor's way of dressing during the time he appeared on CNN.

"Even though I let him be on TV he shamed us Canadians and shamed my company with the way he was dressing like he was 15 years old," he told The Associated Press. "People were complaining that it wasn't professional at all … If you go to any plane you don't see them in shorts and sandals."

It's an opinion shared by flight training schools.

The plaid shirts and jeans worn by Mr. Casado would not fly at the Markham, Ont. Toronto Airways flight training school.

"What he's wearing in that picture, I would not allow," said chief flight instructor Dave Lorbetskie, referring to one of the widely circulated pictures of Mr. Casado sitting in the simulator in his relaxed attire. But, Mr. Lorbetskie added, "who knows what the circumstances are."

Mr. Lorbetskie said his flight instructors "dress like pilots," whether they are flying or using the flight training devices, wearing white pilot's shirts with black pants and black shoes. He said it doesn't matter if one of his pilots is only working in the simulator – everyone dresses the same.

Mr. Lorbetskie said he has disciplined staff at the flight school for dress code infractions in the past but has never let anyone go for this reason.

UFly is an "entertainment business," Teixeira said, offering flight simulation experiences to the public. Its website says it invested more than $250,000 in its flight simulator technology, equipment and training. By contrast, Level D flight simulators used to train commercial airline pilots cost $10-15 million, said a spokesperson from CAE, a national aviation training company.

According to Mr. Casado's LinkedIn page, he has a commercial pilot's licence and was a finalist in the Webster National pilot competition in Ottawa in 2007. He started working at uFly in 2013.

Mr. Casado did not reply to multiple attempts to reach him for comment.

With files from The Associated Press

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