Former Alaska Airlines Pilot Arrested for Allegedly Flying Under the Influence

The 60-year-old retired soonafter he tested positive for alcohol in his system.

ByABC News
January 22, 2016, 1:58 PM

— -- A former captain with Alaska Airlines has been arrested on federal charges of piloting a commercial flight while under the influence of alcohol on two separate occasions, according to the Department of Justice.

David Hans Arntson of Newport Beach, California, was arrested Wednesday in his home and appeared before federal court in Los Angeles, the Department of Justice said in a statement. The 60-year-old was released on $25,000 bond and will be arraigned on Feb. 10.

Arntson was the pilot of two Alaska Airlines flights on June 20, 2014, that he allegedly flew under the influence, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday. He first piloted Flight 573 from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon. He then flew Flight 580 from Portland to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.

After landing in Orange County, Arntson was selected for random drug and alcohol testing by Alaska Airlines, according to the DOJ, which also noted that an Alaska Airlines technician conducted two separate breathalyzer tests, one resulting in a blood alcohol level of 0.134 percent and the other 0.142 percent.

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, according to federal law.

The technician who conducted the test indicated that he did not smell alcohol coming from Arntson during the testing process, the complaint says. After the test results were revealed, Artson told the technician that he did not understand why he tested positive, adding that he'd just gotten out of the hospital and had been taking antibiotics.

Arntson was removed from all "safety-sensitive" duties after the test was conducted and was also prohibited from driving a vehicle, according to the DOJ. He later retired from Alaska Airlines after working with the airline since 1982, according to the criminal complaint, which noted that he was promoted to captain in 1987.

Almost a year later, the co-pilot who flew with Arntson on June 20, 2014, told investigators he recalled hearing the former captain say, "I bet it's for me," when he saw the drug tester upon landing at John Wayne Airport, according to the complaint.

On Oct. 20, Arntson told investigators that he had ordered one beer with dinner the night before the flight but only took "a few" sips, the complaint says. He said that he was a "social drinker" and has never had any issues with substance abuse.

Arntson also told investigators that his retirement was due to "medical issues," according to the complaint.

"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. "We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives."

Arntson could face up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

Alaska Airlines released the following statement Wednesday night following Arntson's arrest:

"Alaska Airlines has an uncompromising commitment to safety and compliance and we put the safety of our passengers and our employees above all else. 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."

Arntson's lawyer was not immediately available for ABC News' request for comment.