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Alaska Airlines Pilot Arrested For Allegedly Flying Drunk

The pilot was given two breathalyzers at the airport when he landed (Photo by Digital Media Pro via Shutterstock)
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A Newport Beach pilot has been arrested and charged with flying a plane while drunk. David Hans Arntson, 60, of Newport Beach had been a pilot with Alaska Airlines since 1982, the L.A. Times reports. He was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly flying a jet plane after drinking on June 20, 2014. Arntson was released on a $25,000 bond, and will be arraigned in February. If convicted, he could face as many as 15 years behind bar.

On the day in question, Arntson piloted two flights. The first was from San Diego to Portland, and the second was from Portland to John Wayne Airport in Orange County. At John Wayne Airport, a Collector/Breath Alcohol Tester for the airline was waiting to conduct a random drug and alcohol test, according to court documents. According to Arntson's co-pilot, Arntson told him, "I bet [the tester] is for me."

Arntson was administered two breathalyzers in the airport bathroom, 15 minutes apart from another one. The first test showed that Arntson had a BAC of 0.134% and the second came up 0.142%. This might seem odd considering the legal limit when driving a car is 0.08%, but a commercial pilot is considered drunk if his or her BAC is 0.10% or higher, according to a release from the Central District of California. The FAA's limit is 0.04%.

Arntson was informed by the airline's chief pilot of his tests results, but said he wasn't sure how that could be true. He maintains that he only had a beer with dinner the night before and does not have a drinking problem. He attempted to get his own blood test done. He was unable to get a blood test until 6:30 a.m. the next morning, and that test showed 0.0.

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Arntson also said that on June 5, he experienced a severe nose bleed during a flight, for which he went to the ER. He returned to the hospital on June 6, and was released on June 9. While he said he received a procedure to help with the nose bleeds, he was not on any medication that would have caused him to test positive for alcohol.

Crew members said they did not notice Arntson drinking alcohol and didn't smell it on him, and Arntson's co-pilot said that Arntson never spoke with him about drinking, but that he didn't know him particularly well as they'd only flown together about 5 times before.

Arntson was removed from duty on the day of the tests, and soon after retired. A spokesperson from Alaska Airlines said that in Arntson's 31 years with the company, he had never tested positive for alcohol before, according to KGW Portland. The airline issued the following statement:

Alaska Airlines has an uncompromising commitment to safety and compliance and we put the safety of our passengers and our employees above all else. We have a zero tolerance policy for employees, including pilots, who fail alcohol and drug tests. Mr. Arntson was immediately removed from duty, he never flew for Alaska after June 20 and he left the company soon after. We believe he is deserving of the Department of Justice’s actions.