by Jamie Blough
Alaska Airlines pilot David Hans Arnston recently pleaded guilty in his Santa Ana court hearing for flying passengers in a plane while under the influence of alcohol. According to the police report, airline officials found Arnston drunk after flying passengers from San Diego to Portland, then from Portland to Santa Ana. Officials conducted a random blood-alcohol test, which resulted in a reading of 0.134. However, the federal limit for pilots is 0.04 percent, so officials immediately removed him from the plane and airline premises.
An alcoholic, 62-year-old Arnston refused to believe he was not sober and drove himself to the hospital later that night to undergo a professional blood-alcohol test. After receiving the same results, professionals hospitalized him overnight due to his intoxicated condition.
At the time of the incident, Arnston was piloting a total of 240 passengers between the two flights. Arnston’s attorney stated: “He has a long and distinguished career as a pilot and has flown thousands of flights without incident. 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 of his mistake.”
In an interview with the Department of Transportation, Arnston stated he was “only a social drinker,” who “[does] not have any issues with alcohol abuse.” He also claimed that the night of the incident he had “only had a few sips of beer during dinner.”
Court officials have not yet scheduled a sentencing date for his offense, which according to NBC, is “Disgraceful because 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. 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.”
Arnston was just one example of the many offenses that officials are constantly unaware of. CNN comments that “[his actions] were incredibly irresponsible and it is lucky that there were no consequences involved with the passengers aboard. This mostly goes to show how little airlines monitor their pilots, considering he was able to maintain his position for his multiple years of alcoholism.”
(Sources: CNN, CBS, NBC)