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Intoxicated pilot intercepted before flight

Anyone can admit that airline pilots should fly sober. It is not debatable.

Yet, a likely collision course to a disaster was recently averted for one Florida-bound JetBlue plane and its passengers and crew. On Wednesday, March 2, an intoxicated pilot had to be physically removed from the cockpit by police officers at New York’s Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Miami was the flight’s intended destination. 

The pilot took a Breathalyzer test, failed miserably

In an interview with CBS, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) stated that upon his removal from the plane, the 52-year-old pilot’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was more than twice the legal limit for operating an automobile – .17%. 

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires far stricter BAC limits (.04) for pilots. Given that standard, the pilot’s Breathalyzer result was more than quadruple the legal limit for flying a plane. Official reports of the incident include the pilot’s admission that during dinner the prior evening he imbibed five or six alcoholic drinks.

A TSA officer alerted authorities about the pilot’s condition

An observant TSA agent saw signs of impairment as the pilot passed the security checkpoint. The agent was then able to notify NFTA police officers about those suspicions. The officers removed him from the plane and administered the BAC test on-site. The pilot was later released to JetBlue security team members after federal officials were also notified, the NFTA spokesperson related.

How many more slip by?

That this breach did not go undetected is encouraging but what about next time? Or the time after that? Airline owners and management need to be aware of safety lapses in their pilots and crew members, and that includes monitoring for drug and alcohol usage. 

Those who suffer injuries in plane crashes and the survivors of those who perish have a right to seek civil redress for their damages and losses. These claims for damage typically include pain, suffering and often loss of economic support.