Ex-Alaska Airlines pilot charged with flying under the influence of alcohol

The Alaska Airlines pilot retired after the 2014 incident. Photo: Alaska Airlines. 

The Alaska Airlines pilot retired after the 2014 incident. Photo: Alaska Airlines. 

A former Alaska Airlines captain was arrested Wednesday and charged with piloting a plane with passengers while under the influence of alcohol, federal officials said Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, David Hans Arntson, 60, of Newport Beach, was given a random drug and alcohol test after piloting a flight from Portland, Oregon to Santa Ana, California on June 20, 2014.

"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," federal prosecutors in Los Angeles said in a release. "After the technician informed Alaska Airlines of the test results, it removed Arntson from all safety-sensitive duties."

Federal law presumes a pilot flying a commercial aircraft is under the influence of alcohol if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.10 percent. 

After the incident, Arntson retired from Alaska, the release says. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, Arntson was released on a $25,000 bond and will next appear in court on Feb. 10. The release notes the charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. 

“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,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in the release. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”

In a statement to other media, Alaska said, ""We have a zero tolerance policy for employees, including pilots, who fail alcohol and drug tests. Mr. Arntson was immediately removed from duty, he never flew for Alaska after June 20 and he left the company soon after. We believe he is deserving of the Department of Justice’s actions.”