Patterico's Pontifications

11/12/2009

Thish Ish Your Captain Shpeaking

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:13 am



Another drunk pilot:

The arrest of a United Airlines pilot this week for allegedly drinking too much before entering the cockpit is the latest in a series of incidents involving airline pilots and alcohol.

The United pilot, Erwin Vermont Washington, was about to take off from London’s Heathrow Airport for Chicago with 124 passengers on board. Instead, he was removed from the aircraft, suspended by his airline and now faces up to two years in a U.K. prison if convicted on criminal charges. He is the third U.S. pilot arrested in 13 months on alcohol-related charges.

Would it be crazy to suggest that maybe these pilots should be forced to take a breathalyzer before boarding a plane? Or would that just drive them to take drugs that can’t be detected without a urine or blood test?

18 Responses to “Thish Ish Your Captain Shpeaking”

  1. I have a question here, although it is in no way a defense of this pilot.

    When a pilot is tested and “fails” the breathalyzer test…are they going by the rules of the UK (in this instance) to determine whether the pilot is drunk?

    Example: Many years ago, when my parents lived in Norway, it was my understanding that if you had had the equivalent of 2 drinks, then you would fail the test.

    No excuse for drinking ANYTHING before piloting a plane, but I was just wondering what constitutes “drunk” in the UK.

    Charlotte (dad663)

  2. The irony is that he would have passed a breathalyzer test. He had only drunk the equivalent of one half of a regular strength beer.United has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to alcohol. Having said that, he probably knew better than to even do that.

    James Kidder (390a8c)

  3. You got it right. Booze and drug addicted pilots and aircrews have brought it on themselves.

    We are fast reaching the point that before a pilot and crew could fly a commercial aircraft they all would be required to blow into a tube and piss into a cup, all under strict supervision. Same drill every time the plane lands, at both intermediate stops and at end of shift. No test, no job. Same for International flights and foreign flight crews, land at a US facility and get tested, no exceptions. No test, no take-off.

    Same goes for ground crews, test them all first thing and randomly during the shift. Test again before they clock out, no test, no job.

    Air travelers go through security checks and customs inspections, aircrews can prove their sobriety or they can take a seat in in the passenger cabin.

    ropelight (f3422c)

  4. Drunk stewardesses are a bad thing? 😉 /ducks

    JD (3b62be)

  5. Ish ittt posshible to ban the sshale off alcoho*hic* productsh to Pilotssh? Hic!…..hic*

    The Emperor (82e13a)

  6. Would it be crazy to suggest that maybe these pilots should be forced to take a breathalyzer before boarding a plane? Or would that just drive them to take drugs that can’t be detected without a urine or blood test?

    Well, if Wal-Mart (IIUC) can require its employees to take drug tests then I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that someone responsible for the safety of a planeload of people be required to take very regular drug tests – urine, blood, breathalyzer and whatever test people can come up with. Have to say I sort of assumed it was happening already.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  7. Thish ish your capatain shpeaking. Anyone know how to land a plane? Hic* I’m feeling a little fuzzy here….hic! anyone? …..zzzzzzzzzzzz

    The Emperor (82e13a)

  8. This is much more of a problem than most people realize among transportation workers, from intercity bus drives and truckers to pilots. They are required to work weird hours, get to some destination, lay over for 10 or so hours and hit the road again. They begin to have a few drinks to “take the edge off and get to sleep” and it becomes a habit.

    Often they will have to start using pills on the other side to wake up so they can get back to work after the lay over. They get into a booze and uppers cycle.

    Huey (b957d9)

  9. Would it be crazy to suggest that maybe these pilots should be forced to take a breathalyzer before boarding a plane?

    Unless the FAA mandates it, United would have to negotiate it with the union. For anyone familiar with labor negotiations, that is a non-starter.

    Corky Boyd (4e8f68)

  10. #9.
    Yeah. Until the first pilot crashes the first plane due to drunkenness. Then we can start talking about applying new compulsory alcohol testing laws on the pilots. It’s never serious till something tragic happens. It’s the way we operate.

    The Emperor (82e13a)

  11. I have to laugh thinking of an ignition breathalyzer lock on a Boeing 777. That would make a great visual gag if they ever make Airplane! III.

    JVW (d32e06)

  12. My wife has worked for AA as a flight attendent for almost 20 years – her understanding is that no pilot can consume an alcohlic drink within 8 hours before departure, period. And as for those random drug tests, they all (including flight attendants) have to undergoe those without any advance warning. BTW, the vast majority of pilots found to be drinking or doing drugs before flights have been turned in to investigators by flight attendants – they don’t want to die any more than the passengers do.

    The work rules are of course negotiated by the unions in conjuction with the FAA, but there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the limits of flight hours per day should be curtailed – too many instances of pilots falling asleep at the controls after logging multiple flights over 12 – hour days.

    Dmac (a964d5)

  13. The irony is that he would have passed a breathalyzer test. He had only drunk the equivalent of one half of a regular strength beer.

    That is true, but remember the effects of alcohol are amplified at higher altitudes. Cabin pressure is typically equivalent to 8,000 ft once at cruise altitude.

    Pons Asinorum (b0bc5f)

  14. “…Until the first pilot crashes the first plane due to drunkenness…”

    How would we know his level of sobriety since, in most cases, there are few survivors to act as witnesses?

    AD - RtR/OS! (05d966)

  15. It doesn’t seem like it’s such a rash of occurances that would indicate new measures were in order.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  16. Comment by AD – RtR/OS! — 11/12/2009 @ 11:34 am
    I guess there’s no way of knowing that except the black box is found and the pilots sound like this before the crash: Mayday! Mayday!! hic*..it looksh like we hic..are going to crash…wooopeee…hic……….

    The Emperor (82e13a)

  17. Yes, just like when the recovered the voice-recorder from the Egypt-Air crash where the pilot was screaming Allahu Akhbar as he drove the plane into the sea…
    Nothing to see here, this never happened, move along now!

    AD - RtR/OS! (05d966)

  18. “… these pilots should be forced to take a breathalyzer before boarding a plane?

    These pilots as in all pilots or which are “these” pilots.

    A greater likelihood is being killed by a drunk driver in a car. Should society mandate breath locks on all cars or is it only planes?

    keninanchorage (a45484)


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