Friday, October 06, 2017

Incidents of drunken pilots are very rare

You may be ready for a stiff drink when you get on an airplane — but that doesn’t mean your pilot should join you.

According to Quartz Media (, approximately one out of every 1,300 pilots attempt to fly while drunk.

Toward the end of 2016, two reports surfaced that likely resulted in a few worried travelers. Two commercial airline pilots, 8,400 miles from one another, were removed from their scheduled flights on suspicion of intoxication.

On New Year’s Eve, Calgary police arrested a pilot for budget Canadian carrier Sunwing Airlines who was about to fly 99 passengers to Cancun, Mexico. The crew reported he was “behaving oddly” and passed out in the cockpit. Police allege his alcohol level was three times the legal limit, according to

A few days earlier, a pilot for Indonesian carrier Citilink reportedly delivered slurred announcements while the plane, scheduled to travel from Surabaya to Jakarta was still on the ground. Footage later surfaced of him struggling to get through a security checkpoint. The airline fired the pilot and two of its executives resigned.

Incidents of drunken pilots are rare, especially considering there were 35 million scheduled flights in 2016.

In August 2016, however, two United Airlines pilots were arrested in Glasgow, Scotland airport on suspicion of drinking before a flight to Newark, New Jersey. In August 2015, a co-pilot for Latvian airline Air Baltic was sentenced to six months in prison after admitting to have indulged in whisky and beer.

In the United States, pilots are subject to a blood-alcohol limit of 0.04 percent, half the legal limit for drivers in many states. That’s the same limit as for other critical jobs, such as air traffic controllers, ambulance drivers, and some ship captains.

But pilots aren’t required to take a breathalyzer test before boarding their assigned plane each time. Instead, pilots are tested randomly or if there is reasonable suspicion. Of 13,149 tests on pilots for alcohol intoxication on commercial pilots in 2015, most of them random, only 10 failed, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As alcohol affects the body long after it is consumed, the FAA also cautions hangover symptoms such as headache, stuffy nose, upset stomach and dizziness can also be impair a pilot. The FAA warns pilots that cold showers, drinking black coffee, or breathing 100 percent oxygen cannot speed up the elimination of alcohol from the body. The FAA also requires pilots to stop drinking at least eight hours before the flight, or “from bottle to throttle.” The standard is also required in Canada and Europe.

Yet for all these protective measures, the main defense against a drunk pilot is the eyes and ears of crew as well as the passengers themselves.

Cabin crewmembers are encouraged to report any suspected intoxication of a pilot or other crewmember. Passengers can reach out to the cabin or the airport’s ground staff if they have any concerns.

The FAA also operates a whistleblower program.

Pilot intoxication can bring criminal charges in the U.S., where pilots that try or succeed in flying drunk can face up to 15 years in prison.

The FAA says it doesn’t have any planned changes to the current system to catch intoxicated pilots. It claims the numbers are extremely low and this nation’s pilots take fitness to fly and professionalism very seriously.

Original article can be found here ➤

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