In a case of life imitating art, federal prosecutors in California have charged David Arntson, a 60-year-old former Alaska Airlines pilot, with flying a plane from Oregon to California after having too many alcoholic beverages. (In my opinion, one is too many if I am going to get on a plane with him behind the wheel.) He was arrested last week and charged with one felony count of operating a plane while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to federal prosecutors.
Arnison flew two flights on June 20, 2014. After the second flight landed in Orange County, California a random drug test registered his blood alcohol level of between 0.134 and 0.142 percent, prosecutors charge. A BAC of 0.08 percent is enough to get someone busted for DUY while driving on the ground.
“Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”
Arnston was hired by Jet America in 1982 and flew with Alaska Airlines after Jet America was acquired by the company. He denies drinking any alcohol, according to the criminal complaint. The complaint also says he was removed from “safely-sensitive duties” the day of the positive test and later retired.
If convicted, Arnston could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Arnston’s co-pilot told investigators that upon seeing the drug tester at the gate Arniston said “I bet that’s for me,” but the context of the statement wasn’t made clear.
Let me make THIS clear: it’s sad enough that most people of any age know what a DUI is. If we are now living in a world where we need another acronym, FUI, for FLYING under the influence, we’re in the last days.
It’s hard enough to convince me that a metal pressurized tube that’s tens of thousands of feet in the air is a reliable form of transportation. It’s next to impossible if I now have to worry about the pilot tossing a few back while he’s in the cockpit.
Superman had it right. Lois Lane offered him a drink once, and he replied “I never drink when I fly.”
I’m counting on my pilots to follow that lead.