Federal authorities arrested 60-year-old retired pilot David Arnston on Wednesday on allegations that he piloted a plane while drunk in June 2014.
Arnston piloted two Alaska Airlines flights on June 20, 2014. The first left from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon. From there, Arnston piloted a flight to John Wane Airport in Santa Ana, California. His co-pilot recalls seeing the drug tester after landing and hearing Arnston saying, “I bet it’s for me,” according to the criminal complaint against Arnston.
The veteran pilot was indeed selected for random drug and alcohol testing. A technician conducted two tests, the results of which put Arnston’s blood alcohol level at 0.134 and 0.142.
“Federal law provides criminal sanctions for any person who operates or directs the operation of a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or control substance,” according to the complaint. “Under the influence of alcohol” is defined as a “blood alcohol content of .10 percent or more.”
The technician that tested Arntson alerted Alaska Airlines and Arnston was removed from all safety-sensitive duties.
Arntson retired after the incident. He was first hired by Alaska Airlines in 1982. On October 1, 1987 he was promoted to the position of Captain for Alaska Airlines, according to an FAA report cited in the complaint.
“Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”
Arntson was released the day after his Wednesday arrest on a $25,000 bond. He is scheduled for arraignment in court on February 10.
If convicted for the felony charge of “operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or drugs” Arntson faces a maximum 15 years in federal prison.
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