Thursday, August 25, 2016

Co-pilot arraigned on drunken airmen charge: Florida man barred from flying under bond

Sean Fitzgerald, right, appears with his attorney Patrick Fragel in 86th District Court on a charge he was drunk in the cockpit of a flight leaving Cherry Capital Airport.

TRAVERSE CITY — A charter plane co-pilot stood mute on accusations he tried to fly from Cherry Capital Airport while drunk.

Sean Michael Fitzgerald, 35, of Boca Raton, Florida, appeared for arraignment Friday in front of 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka on a misdemeanor charge of being an aircraft crewmember and having a blood-alcohol content of 0.02 or more.

The hearing followed Fitzgerald's arrest Thursday following a call from a dispatcher for a Talon Air flight reporting that Fitzgerald appeared intoxicated. A preliminary breath test showed he had a 0.301 blood-alcohol content before he was sent to Munson Medical Center for blood draw.

"I would assume this would also affect your pilot's license," Stepka told Fitzgerald.

Stepka entered a not guilty plea Fitzgerald's behalf after Fitzgerald stood mute.

Patrick Fragel, Fitzgerald's defense attorney, said neither he nor his client would comment at this time.

A police report states the flight's pilot noticed Fitzgerald smelled of alcohol and slurred his speech. The pilot notified his company's dispatchers, which ultimately brought a city police sergeant into the plane. The sergeant found Fitzgerald in a cockpit seat, with a headset on and making pre-flight checks, the report states.

"Fitzgerald stated that he had nothing to drink since his lunch (Wednesday) afternoon at which time he drank two beers," the report states.

Stepka continued Fitzgerald's $5,000 personal recognizance bond set by a magistrate. The bond includes a condition prohibiting him from flying an aircraft. It allows him to travel to New Jersey.

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 8. He could face up to 93 days in jail or a minimum fine of $100, if convicted.

Miami-Dade County court records state Fitzgerald in 2004 was convicted of disorderly intoxication, a misdemeanor.

FAA officials in 2014 proposed a $150,000 civil penalty against Talon Air on accusations company employees violated federal aviation regulations by allowing four pilots to fly without proper training or examinations. Three Talon Air pilots did not undergo recurrent training or receive required competency flight checks, according to an FAA news release.

Those pilots flew at least 64 times in 2011 and 2012 while they were unqualified to serve as on-demand flight crew members, the release states. Talon Air offered a rebuttal in 2014, claiming it was related to "an inadvertent administrative paperwork issue."

A Talon Air spokesperson said the matter was an resolved without penalty or finding of fault.


We can now show you the co-pilot arrested for blowing a .3 alcohol breath test pre-flight at Cherry Capital Airport.

Sean Fitzgerald is charged with a misdemeanor for being almost eight times over the legal limit to fly.

His captain on the Talon Air charter plane called police when he noticed Fitzgerald was acting suspicious Thursday morning.

Talon Air says Fitzgerald was fired immediately.

He's facing 93 days in jail and fines if found guilty.


A co-pilot about to fly out of Cherry Capital Airport was stopped for possibly being intoxicated.

Police say he did a breath test and blew a .30.

They arrested him for operating while drunk.

Traverse City police arrested a co-pilot who they say was extremely drunk.

The Talon Air charter plane was scheduled to leave from the general aviation runaway on the north side of Cherry Capital Airport.

As the crew was getting ready, police say the captain noticed his co-pilot was acting strangely.   

He quickly called his dispatch center and when Traverse City police got there they found the man had a blood alcohol level of .30 and arrested him.

“That's a very high blood alcohol level. I can honestly say in 15 years of law enforcement that this is the first time that I'm aware the city police had arrested somebody that was planning to pilot a plane,” says Captain Kevin Dunklow, Traverse City Police Department.

We have reached out to Talon Air in New York and received the following statement.

"We are very proud of Captain Manny Ramirez' immediate action in detecting the co-pilot's condition and removing him from his position. This is yet another example of Talon Air's safety procedures working effectively on behalf of our clients and for airport safety. The individual in question has been immediately terminated."


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