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Pilots Flying Under the Influence the Dangers of Drunk Pilots

pilots under the influence
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Pilot Darrell Roberts, 58, ran out of fuel for his small aircraft as he flew his aircraft from Temecula to San Diego forcing him to land in a business parking lot on Workman Mill Road in Whittier, but shortly after he made it safely to the ground he was under arrest.

Roberts was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol, an offense that could land him in behind bars or he could lose his pilot’s license.

The number of airline or small aircraft pilots flying under the influence of alcohol is extremely rare, but even the danger is real and some of the culprits are highly-decorated pilots.

Indeed, there are roughly 90,000 flights worldwide transporting upwards of 8 million people every day and the majority are sober and alert.  However, that’s not to say there are no lapses in judgement.

Last August, airport security staff detected the smell of alcohol on two United Airlines pilots and subsequently removed them from their scheduled flight aboard a Boeing 757 jet carrying 141 passengers bound for the United States from Scotland.

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One of the pilots, Paul Brady Grebenc, 35, of Columbus, Mississippi, was also a reserve instructor pilot for the Columbus Airforce Base. He lost his job and was sentenced to 10 months in a Scottish prison for violating the Britain’s Railways and Transport Safety Act by attempting to fly while intoxicated. He was twice the legal limit of 20 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

The second pilot, Carlos Roberto Licona, 45, of Humble, Texas was sentenced to 15 months in jail. Two years earlier, Licona was recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

About one month earlier, two Canadian pilots were arrested at Glasgow Airport after it was discovered they were intoxicated and unable to fly. Jean-Francois Perreault, 39, and Imran Zafar Syed, 37, were taken out of service.

Just like driving a vehicle under the influence, pilots caught drinking and flying may get a reprimand, but their actions do not necessarily kill their careers. Many pilots will continue to fly for airlines, but customers will never know their history unless it makes headlines in the news.

In fact, the only people who have access to the pilot record database maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration is the companies who are hiring the airline pilots. Only these authorized people may check on a pilot’s history of suspensions, drug or alcohol use and their employment history.

Aviation Alcohol Limits

According to Section 93 of the Railway and Transport Safety Act: “A person commits an offence if he performs an aviation function at a time when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or he carries out an activity which is ancillary to an aviation function at a time when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.” Pilots may consume no more than 9μg of alcohol in 100ml, according to the act.

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