With another arrest of a "drunk" pilot, this time a United Captain on a flight from LHR bound for ORD, should passengers be worried about their safety in the skies? The LA Times featured an interesting discussion of pilot sobriety yesterday which highlighted-
- 3 arrests ex-LHR of U.S. pilots for "drunkeness" the last 13 months. Perhaps this is due to the UK´s blood-alcohol-maximum of 0.02. One beer is theoretically enough to knock you out.
- The FAA has no enforcement mechanism-it is up to co-workers and passengers to find "bad apples."
- This leads to a lot of passengers crying wolf, especially after recent incidents are reported in the news.
- Pilots with alcohol problems can voluntarily step down, enter alcohol rehab, and usually be back on the job within a year.
- 90% of pilots who participate in the rehab program return to work.
No breaking news here (and I´m not about to suggest that ANON meetings be held in the UA Pilot´s lounge in ORD). If I notice a pilot is drunk, I will report him, but I think the notion that passengers on the recent UA LHR-ORD flight were put into severe danger is ridiculous, after all there would have been two more pilots in the flight deck. Just so long as they didn´t go out drinking toghether I suppose…
I shouldn´t joke, because this issue is serious, but please do not boycott UA or forgo flying because of an occasional pilot who may have had a beer before the flight. Flying is still the safest way to get from point A to point B. Pilots should severally punished for showing up with a high BAC level, but instances of pilot of drunkeness are so rare (that´s why it makes headlines when it happens) that I would not even give it a second thought next time you fly.