Don’t get me wrong, I like “Happy Hour” just as much as the next guy. But when it comes to sitting in an airport at a bar, waiting to board and watching your pilot drink, well, it makes you wonder about getting on the plane. It seems according to the FAA, 1 pilot a month flies drunk.
An American Airlines pilot flunked two sobriety tests before a 7 a.m. flight out of Detroit. An Alaska Airlines pilot flew a commercial plane from California to Oregon and back again, all while allegedly drunk. Yet another pilot, from United, allegedly moonlighted as a pimp, running half a dozen brothels out of apartments in Houston, according to authorities.
The cases are enough to frighten the flying public, and are not isolated, according to a FoxNews.com investigation. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that while the overwhelming majority of men and women at the cockpit controls are law abiding and responsible, too many fly – or attempt to fly – intoxicated, and even engage in criminal behavior after they touch down.
“According to FAA data, there is no leveling off or decrease in this trend, in fact drug use seems to be climbing,” said Peter Bartos, a retired military pilot with an FAA Airline Transport Pilot license, who reviewed the FAA data for FoxNews.com. “The general public probably has no idea that this abuse is occurring with such regularity at certain airlines.”
“It is mind-boggling that on average one U.S. pilot a month is caught trying to fly a passenger aircraft while over the legal limit for flying, which at 0.04 percent, is more restrictive than for driving a car in many states, especially given that they know they are subject to screening,” Bartos said. “It also means that others aren’t caught, since it is not a mandatory test for all pilots on every flight.”
Under FAA rules, pilots are not allowed to consume alcohol eight hours before a flight or have a blood alcohol content level higher than .04 percent.
“One might surmise that all pilots from the problem airlines should blow into a breathalyzer/drug tester before every flight until this trend stops,” he said. “And the airlines should issue them their own breathalyzers so they can know when not to try to report to work.
“Drinking is not illegal, but operating under the influence with an aircraft full of passengers certainly is,” Bartos added.
The facts are clear:
Alcohol is a drug. Alcohol impairs judgment that can lead to or cause accidents. Any factor, such as alcohol that impairs vision or any brain activity, puts any and all passengers at risk.
FAA rules say…8 hours from bottle to throttle.
So next time your waiting to board a plane and you’re in a bar enjoying Happy Hour at the airport, check to make sure your pilot is not there too. Enjoy your Happy Hour, just not with your pilot.