It just wasn’t enough hours from bottle to throttle for one American Airlines aviator and it was very disturbing if not frightening, for passengers planning to board a flight he was co-piloting. Let’s face it how w would you like to hear this message come over the PA system while waiting for flight, “sorry your pilot is too drunk to fly this plane so it’s been canceled?” Probably not. But that’s what happened recently when sharp-eyed TSA security officials smelled the alcohol on the breath of an American Airlines pilot who was also acting a bit bombed. The co-pilot was supposed to be in the cockpit of AA flight 736 from Detroit to Philadelphia yesterday morning, March 26, but thanks to eagle-eyed security guards he didn’t get behind the wheel, but instead was taken into custody where he failed the breathalyzer test. The news was on the radio, TV and online on CNN, eturbonews and others.
Eturbonews reported that the scene of passengers waiting to board the aborted flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport became very chaotic especially when they saw the co-pilot being hauled off the tarmac in handcuffs. One can certainly feel their fear. The airport police were summoned to the airport’s north terminal early Saturday morning in response to a pilot drunk SOS.
For everyone’s safety and security Federal Aviation Administration guidelines state pilots prohibit pilots to fly an aircraft with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 per cent or above. It’s obvious that the co-pilot didn’t pass the test. The United States has an actual bottle to throttle rule that says it must be at least eight hours after imbibing alcohol before a pilot can get into the cockpit to fly a plane. According to an interesting story, “a short history of drunk pilots” on Bloomberg, “As years of FAA simulator studies have shown, in addition to studies by Stanford University’s Aviation Safety Laboratory, impairment from the effects of alcohol occurs at surprisingly low levels. Bad hangovers can deeply affect pilot performance, as well. (How far we’ve come from the days when Air France flight attendants would, as a matter of course, serve pilots wine with their mid-flight meals.)”
The story went on to say that according to Kelly Nantel, director of public affairs at the National Transportation Safety Board, there’s never been a commercial airline crash caused by a drunk pilot. And as former airline pilot John Cox told USA Today in 2010, the FAA conducts numerous tests—more than 10,000 pilots are tested every year, with about 12 failing, on average—and crew members serve as barriers of protection against tipsy captains and co-captains.”
As is the case in all airline incidents American apologized to all travelers who were affected by what happened and having their flight canceled (they were re-touted to another flight) and the airline said that it was re-accommodating people whose travel plans were disrupted.