A 37-year old Canadian pilot was recently arrested by local authorities after attempting to fly a passenger plan while under the influence of alcohol. The flight, run by Canadian airline Sunwing, was scheduled to fly from Calgary International Airport to Cancun, Mexico with a departure time of 7am. However, just before take-off, the flight crew noticed the pilot displaying erratic behavior before he passed out in the cockpit. As the pilot slept, other crew members called the authorities. After testing the pilot’s blood alcohol content, the Canadian police reported that the pilot had more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system, and that was a number of hours after his arrest. The police proceeded to put the pilot in jail and charge him with one count of operating an aircraft while impaired and one count of operating an aircraft with blood alcohol level over 0.08%.
National Government spokesman said that it is a crime for a pilot to work within eight hours of drinking alcohol or while under the influence. He added that Transport Canada is still investigating the incident. Police spokesman Paul Stacey said “It had all the potential for a disaster but I’ll tell you this much – the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they’re impaired like that is pretty slim, because there’s a lot of checks and balances.” The case against the pilot is still pending and he has yet to be convicted of any criminal offense.
In the United States, there are safety regulations established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that prohibit a pilot from operating an aircraft, or attempting to operate an aircraft: (a) within eight hours of consuming alcohol; (b) while under the influence of alcohol; (c) with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater; and (d) while using any drug that adversely affects safety. Ohio makes the infraction a criminal offense through use of the drinking and flying statute prohibited by R.C. 4561.15. The penalties include up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Interestingly, Ohio’s drinking and flying statute is just a few paragraphs long, which is extremely short when compared to Ohio’s drinking and driving statute. In addition, it is extremely vague. The law prohibits flying while “under the influence” but doesn’t include any language about specific per se limits that are included in the drinking and driving statute. As a result, it would be much easier for an experienced lawyer to defend someone charged with Flying while Under the Influence (FUI) as opposed to Driving while Under the Influence (DUI).