Ex-Alaska Pilot Sentenced to Prison After Admitting to Flying Drunk

Jul 26, 2018

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A former pilot for Alaska Airlines has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison and fined $10,000 as of yesterday after flying while intoxicated back in 2014.

David Hans Arntson had been a captain for Alaska for more than 20 years before a random drug test on June 20, 2014, unveiled a serious danger to Alaska Airlines passengers: Arntson’s blood alcohol concentration was at 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent after piloting two flights. That’s almost three times the legal limit for pilots.

The two flights Arntson piloted were on Boeing 737s with about 240 passengers altogether. His first flight was from San Diego to Portland, and the next was from Portland to Santa Ana, where he was randomly drug tested. “The technician [who conducted the test] alerted the airline,” reported KTLA, “which took off Arnston from safety-sensitive duties.”

After the incident, Arntson retired, and the FAA revoked his permit to pilot a plane, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Arntson pleaded guilty to a felony charge, facing up to 15 years in prison. However, he was sentenced with just one year and one day in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.

The catch was, in a way, a victory and a failure, potentially coming 20 years too late. As iterated by US Attorney Nicola T. Hanna, “this defendant was at the controls during hundreds of flights carrying innumerable passengers – undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol during many of those trips.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first incident of drunkenness in the cockpit. Just last month, a BA pilot pleaded guilty to also being over the alcohol limit for pilots while in the cockpit.

Plus, TPG is seeing greater precautions being taken to ensure the stability of plane crew. Yesterday, the European Union released plans to tighten mental health assessments for pilots and crew in response to the intentional Germanwings crash that took the lives of 144 passengers and six crew members.

*This post has been updated to reflect that there were a total of 240 passengers, not per plane.

Featured image by 400tmax / Getty Images.

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