A Los Angeles federal grand jury Thursday indicted a former Alaska Airlines pilot from Newport Beach on a charge of operating a passenger plane while under the influence of alcohol, federal prosecutors said.
David Hans Arntson, 60, was arrested last month on the federal felony charge and released on a $25,000 bond, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to a criminal complaint, Arntson was the pilot of two Alaska Airlines flights on June 20, 2014.
The first flight was from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon. He then piloted a flight from Portland to John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
After landing at John Wayne Airport, Arntson was selected for random drug and alcohol testing by Alaska Airlines, court papers show.
A technician for Alaska Airlines performed two tests on Arntson and received results that the pilot had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent, according to the complaint.
After the technician informed Alaska Airlines of the test results, the carrier immediately removed Arntson from all safety-sensitive duties, federal prosecutors said.
According to federal law, a person operating a “common carrier,” such as a commercial airliner, is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol when his or her blood-alcohol content is 0.10 percent or higher.
Arntson’s co-pilot on the two flights remembered seeing the drug tester when the plane landed at John Wayne Airport and recalled Arntson saying, “I bet it’s for me,” according to the complaint.
Arntson has since retired from Alaska Airlines.
“Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible,” Los Angeles U.S. attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”
The charge of operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.
— Wire reports