David Hans Arntson, a former Alaska Airlines pilot, has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison for piloting a plane under the influence of alcohol.
The sixty-three-year-old Newport Beach, California, resident readily admitted to flying a plane with more than 80 passengers while intoxicated. A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, says Arntson, who served as a captain for Alaska Airlines for more than 20 years, had conceded he had flown two planes under the influence on June 20, 2014. The first was from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon, and the second from Portland to Orange County, California’s John Wayne Airport.
At John Wayne Airport, Arnston was stopped by an airline technician for a routine drug and alcohol test. He took breathalyzer tests that showed his blood alcohol concentration levels were above the federal limit of 0.04, registering 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent. The pilot was immediately suspended from flying duties. He subsequently retired and agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of piloting the planes while under the influence.
The Federal Aviation Administration revoked his pilot’s license and he was forced to pay a $10,000 fine in addition to his sentence. Prosecutors claimed Arnston had been secretly drinking while flying for "at least a substantial portion" of his 20-year career at the airline.
At the time of his suspension, Arnston claimed that he had not been drinking and only had a few sips of beer the night before. He also alleged he was taking antibiotics.
“This defendant was at the controls during hundreds of flights carrying innumerable passengers — undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol during many of those trips,” U.S. State Attorney Nicole T. Hanna said in the statement.
“Fortunately, he was finally caught, and the risk to passengers was stopped,” Hanna said, adding that the case should remind those in the airline industry that passenger safety is a priority.
Alaska Airlines spokesperson Ann Johnson told Travel + Leisure that the airline does not comment on employee misconduct but that "safety is the top priority at Alaska Airlines" and airline representatives "are gratified that this individual will be held accountable for his actions."
The investigation into Arntson was carried out by the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General.
“The sentencing in this U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG) investigation demonstrates our commitment to safeguarding the Nation’s air transportation system for the traveling public,” said Lisa Glazzy, Acting DOT-OIG Regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Working with our prosecutorial partners, we will continue our efforts to prevent and pursue those who seek to compromise the safety of our National Airspace System.”