On Saturday (March 26, 2016), an American Airlines flight from Detroit, MI to Philadelphia, PA was cancelled after one of the pilots was arrested. A TSA agent notified the Police of suspicious activity. Subsequently, the pilot failed breathalyzer tests administered by local authorities.
The relevant FAA standard indicates no pilot my operate an airplane within 8 hours of consuming alcohol or with a blood alcohol content .04 percent or greater. It appears the pilot in question had a blood alcohol content above .04, though the exact results are unknown.
American Airlines operates a major hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The company is a significant component of the region's economy. The presence of Charlotte's International Airport is also undeniable for our local economy. These safety issues are important as they greatly impact such important companies.
My question to you, the reader concerns the broader topic: Do you believe the FAA's standard is appropriate?
You can certainly argue the standard is not restrictive enough. Factors to consider include: the number of passengers, the complexity of the aircraft, the danger of innocent bystanders (both in the air, and on the ground), the amount of explosive jet fuel on board, etc. Upon considering factors such as these, one may argue the risks are too great to allow any alcohol to remain in a pilot's system during a flight.
On the other hand, one may argue the FAA's standard is appropriate. Admittedly, I am not privy to the FAA's research regarding this matter. I would assume the FAA carefully determined the current standard after much research. I would be rather curious to learn this information from a knowledgeable source. As a practical matter, the current standard does allow for 8 hours of alcohol dissipation, and / or limits the blood alcohol content to a quite low .04 percent. By way of reference, North Carolina utilizes a .08 blood alcohol content for non-commercial drivers with no prior convictions.
So, what do you think? Do you believe the FAA standard for pilots is appropriate?
As a Charlotte, NC DWI attorney, I view this from the perspective of a criminal defense attorney. Accordingly, I certainly believe a pilot has a right to work in a reasonable environment, and he / she has constitutional rights of due process when charged with a crime (regardless of how bad the scenario initially looks). I also believe the public (here the TSA) must balance the individual's personal rights with the public's concerns. I previously mentioned the .08 blood alcohol content standard for North Carolina. Do you believe this limit is the appropriate North Carolina standard?