MoJo’s April Hellraiser


Name: Tony Delcavo
What He Does: Exposes clear cutting
Claim To Fame: Pilot-turned-advocate

If you find yourself above a Western landscape on a United Airlines jetliner, you may hear more from the pilot than the usual chitchat about wind speed. When Tony Delcavo’s voice crackles across the intercom, he’s likely to announce what’s really on his mind. “If you look out your windows,” Delcavo is fond of saying, “you’ll see clear-cuts in your national forests.”

Delcavo began pointing out clear-cut forests to his passengers five years ago. His inspiration was Edward Abbey, the irreverent author of The Monkey Wrench Gang and ardent defender of Western wilderness. “I came up with this idea as one thing I could do to respond to Abbey’s call to get involved,” says the 49-year-old Colorado resident, who admires Abbey so much he bought the late author’s 1975 Cadillac convertible. “It just occurred to me how dramatic clear-cuts are from the air.”

So far, United has received only one complaint. “I was offended,” wrote a passenger who flew from Eugene, Ore., to Denver last May. “While in the cockpit, [Delcavo] needs to pay attention to flying.” But Delcavo says he simply points out salient features of the landscape: cities, rivers, and bald patches on mountainsides. “They can make up their own minds whether it’s good or not,” he says. Joe Hopkins, a United spokesperson, says the company has no problem with Delcavo’s practice: “What the pilots point out is pretty much up to them.”

Delcavo is not the only ecofriendly pilot. Others, including United’s Tim Morrison, have also taken up the practice. “Some think I’m nuts and some think it’s pretty cool,” Morrison says of his fellow pilots. “Hopefully, it plants a seed, because it’s a total checkerboard down there.” Delcavo has no intention of stopping. “If one out of 100 people says, ‘Man, I didn’t know they were doing that to the land,’ that can make a difference,” he says.

Know of any people who are raising a bit of hell? E-mail hellraiser@motherjones.com