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Ex-Alaska Airlines Pilot Charged With Flying Drunk

A publicity photograph from Alaska Airlines showing a Boeing 737 800 aircraft in flight.

Accusations of drunk flying stem from two Alaska Airlines flights in 2014 where pilot allegedly tested legally intoxicated.

A former Alaska Airlines pilot is accused of flying a passenger aircraft under the influence of alcohol after prosecutors say he flew two flights with a blood alcohol concentration above .1 percent. The Department of Justice announced the arraignment of 60-year-old David Hans Arnston, a retiree of the airline on the single felony charge.

The arraignment stems from a 2014 incident where Arnston was in charge of two Alaska Airlines flights. After flying from San Diego International Airport (SAN) to Portland International Airport (PDX), Arnston was selected for a random drug test upon returning from PDX to John Wayne Airport-Orange County (SNA). According to the Justice Department complaint, Arnston allegedly told his co-pilot “I bet it’s for me,” after spotting the drug tester.

In two subsequent tests taken 15 minutes apart, Arnston allegedly tested with a blood alcohol concentration of .134 percent and .142 percent. Federal law defines alcohol intoxication for pilots operating commercial aircraft at a blood alcohol concentration of .1 percent. Comparatively, those operating motor vehicles are considered to be under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent.

“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,” United States attorney Eileen M. Decker said in the Justice Department press release. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”

According to the Justice Department, Arnston was removed from “safety-sensitive duties” by the airline after the positive report. USA Today reports Arnston began flying for Alaska Airlines in 1982 but retired shortly after the alleged incident.

Arnston was released on a $25,000 bond and will return to court on February 10, 2016. If convicted, the former pilot could face up to 15 years in federal prison.

[Photo: Alaska Airlines]

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4 Comments
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brocklee9000 January 25, 2016

It's definitely 0.04%, half of the legal limit for driving. Yes, he may have operated the airplane safely, no one was injured, whatever. But this has to be a zero tolerance thing, so they can't just "let him retire in peace." Random testing is part of the job. Zero tolerance is also part of the job. Since the drug or alcohol testing is random, he probably assumed he could drink some, fly, and be safe, because "what are the odds it'll happen to me today." How many other pilots adopt that careless attitude? This sets the tone that the airline will not tolerate any missteps.

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safetrips1 January 25, 2016

He landed safely let the old man retire in peace

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duhe January 23, 2016

Where are you getting .1 from? CFR 91.17 provides that: (a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft— ... (4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

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burbanite January 23, 2016

.134 and .142???? "Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.17 The use of alcohol and drugs by pilots is regulated by FAR 91.17. Among other provisions, this regulation states that no person may operate or attempt to operate an aircraft: • within 8 hours of having consumed alcohol • while under the influence of alcohol • with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or greater" • while using any drug that adversely affects safety"