JetBlue flight 2465 from Buffalo to Fort Lauderdale was delayed four hours on Wednesday morning when the aircraft’s co-pilot was flagged as possibly impaired as he went through the security checkpoint.
Police were called and the man was taken off the plane and given a breathalyzer test. He registered a blood alcohol content of .17. Twelve hours bottle-to-throttle* notwithstanding, .04 is deemed to be intoxicated for a pilot. That’s half the legal limit compared to driving a vehicle. The only thing you’re prepared to drive at .17 is the porcelain bus.
The co-pilot “was seen walking on the tarmac and placed in a patrol car” and then “released to JetBlue security.” He’ll presumably face federal charges.
It was a morning that passengers aboard a @JetBlue flight leaving Buffalo wish to forget, but they are safe! I'll have details tonight at 5 & 6 on Channel 2 @WGRZ (pix courtesy: BM) pic.twitter.com/HhCmUosozt
— Claudine Ewing (@ClaudineWgrz) March 2, 2022
JetBlue’s priority of course is safety. This pilot’s priority may have been getting so tanked he thought he was Gary Busey trying to explain who really killed Bruce Lee.
Pilots with an alcohol dependency may be wary of speaking up and seeking help, for fear of being sidelined, despite programs designed to encourage them to do so. Pilots hide not just alcohol abuse but mental health conditions and that points to a fundamental conundrum: you want pilots to be open and seek help in order to promote safety, but once they’re open they’re a clearly identified risk and get removed from the cockpit. So the consequences of being open discourage that openness. Or at least that’s the fear many pilots have, not trusting any commitments to help rather than punish. And though incidents like this are rare, that’s a problem.
* The FAA rule remains 8 hours, but recommends 24. Many airlines have moved to 12.