LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former Alaska Airlines pilot has agreed to plead guilty to flying a commercial jetliner while under the influence of alcohol under an agreement that calls for him to serve a year in prison, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
David Hans Arntson, 62, was found by random breathalyzer tests on June 20, 2014, to have a blood alcohol level of 0.134 and 0.142 percent following an Alaska Airlines flight, said Nicola Hanna, U.S. attorney for the Central District of Los Angeles.
The federal limit for pilots is 0.04 percent.
“This pilot worked for the airline for more than 20 years, and we now know that he was an alcoholic who flew commercial flights while under the influence of alcohol,” Hanna said in a statement.
“Thankfully, Mr. Arntson was never involved in an accident, but his conduct could have resulted in tragic consequences. Very few people will ever hold the lives of so many people in their hands at one time,” Hanna said.Arntson’s attorney, Dyke Huish, told Reuters that his client had a perfect safety record during his 20-year career as an airline pilot and had never tested positive for alcohol until the incident that led to his arrest.
“He has taken full responsibility for his mistake as any good pilot would do,” Huish said.
On the day that Arntson tested positive, he had flown an Alaska Airlines flight from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon, and another from Portland to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, prosecutors said.
The airline removed Arntson from his duties as a pilot following the test and the Federal Aviation Administration revoked his ability to fly a plane. Arntson then retired as a commercial airline pilot.
Arntson will formally enter his guilty plea and be sentenced at a later hearing in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney