Driving under the influence is considered a dangerous affair but consider flying while drunk, that’s negligence of the highest order.
That’s what happened with a former Alaska Airlines pilot who agreed on Tuesday to plead guilty in federal court in Santa Ana to flying a plane while under the influence of alcohol. The U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed that the plea deal calls for a sentence of one year and a day for David Hans Arntson, 62. However, the sentencing date has not yet been set.
“This pilot worked for the airline for more than 20 years, and we now know that he was an alcoholic who flew commercial flights while under the influence of alcohol,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna. “When he was finally caught, the evidence indicates that he had flown with an alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. Thankfully, Mr. Arntson was never involved in an accident, but his conduct could have resulted in tragic consequences. Very few people will ever hold the lives of so many people in their hands at one time.”
The pilot’s attorney, Dyke Huish, said his client “has a long and distinguished career as a pilot and has flown thousands of flights without incident. And he has a perfect safety record, and as any good pilot who is responsible for the lives of people, he is willing to take responsibility and accept the consequences for his mistake.”
Court papers also indicate that Arnston was found to be under the influence when he piloted two flights on June 20, 2014. The first flight was from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon, with 160 passengers aboard. Later on, he flew from Portland to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana on a flight with about 80 passengers aboard.
The pilot landed in Santa Ana and that’s when he was pulled aside by airline officials for a random drug and alcohol check that resulted in blood-alcohol readings of 0.134 and 0.142, “well above” the federal limit of 0.04 percent for pilots. It’s alleged that the pilot suffered from alcoholism for most of the two-plus decades that he worked for Alaska Airlines.
He expressed surprise when he was told he failed the breathalyzer tests and drove himself home that day.
“He later drove himself to a hospital where, at approximately 8 p.m., he had his blood drawn,” according to the plea agreement. “That blood test result indicated a blood-alcohol level that was substantially over the legal limit for commercial pilots. Defendant was kept at the hospital overnight due to his condition.”