Breathalyze Pilots Before Takeoff


We’ve heard stories about pilots taking off while under the influence. I’ve written about such incidences. Denzel Washington even played one in the movie “Flight.” Now New York legislators want to breathalyze pilots before taking off.

“It’s a prevention measure that will help to ensure that the safety and the security of the public is in good hands,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) who introduced a bill that would force pilots to take a breathalyzer before flight. “I’m trying to guarantee that these pilots with this new initiative will be more caution and more careful.”

According to Ortiz, recent instances of pilots flying under the influence are what prompted him to draft the bill.

Two American Airlines pilot failed two sobriety tests before taking off from Detroit to Philadelphia and was charged with being drunk behind the cockpit. Another Alaskan Airlines pilot was accused of flying under the influence after completing a flight from California to Oregon.

Crewmembers of civil aircrafts, including pilots, are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 91.17 states that, “no person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft within 8 hours after drinking alcohol, while under the influence of alcohol, while using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety, or while having an alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen.”

Similarly, California Public Utility Code section 21407 reads, “It is unlawful for any person to operate an aircraft in the air, or on the ground or water in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. In any proceeding charging operation of aircraft in violation of this section, the court in determining whether the operation was careless or reckless shall consider the standards for safe operation of aircraft prescribed by federal statutes or regulations governing aeronautics.”

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