'What Would You Do?': Drunken Pilots

If you saw two pilots boozing before takeoff, would you say something?

May 19, 2010 — -- You're out enjoying a relaxing day at a beautiful beachside bar. You sit down to order a drink and an appetizer and take in the scenery.

Then two airline pilots in uniform walk into the bar and start ordering drinks. Everything seems fine -- maybe they're just unwinding after a long day -- but then you overhear something frightening.

"When do we got to be at work?" asks the first officer. The captain replies that they have more than an hour.

"Well, we got time for another one," the first officer says.

Authorities say that in the last seven years, there have been 33 cases of drunken pilots documented worldwide. Just this past November, a pilot was pulled off a plane and arrested for flying drunk. These incidents put hundreds of people at potential risk.

But when the scenario described above unfolded in a bar on the New Jersey Shore, nobody seemed fazed by the partying pilots.

What the patrons at McLoone's Pier House didn't know was that the pilots were actors working for "What Would You Do?" Their drinks were just water, and hidden cameras were rolling. The pilots even carried fake business cards.

Drunken Pilots: 'They Were Wasted'

Would anyone try to stop the tipsy pilots from returning to work?

The drinks continued to flow as the captain, slightly slurring his words, talked about his upcoming flight."Smooth sailing, smooth sailing," he said.

The first officer was quick to order up another round.

"Bartender, we only got like another five minutes before we gotta go fly, could we get one more round here? Then we'll close out," he said.

A woman seated next to the pilots seemed to be concerned, but her friend couldn't stop laughing. They told the pilots to be safe, and then they turned to the bartender -- also an actor -- and shared their thoughts.

"They were wasted, and I think they are going to fly a plane right now," the man said.

We decided it was time to introduce ourselves and let them in on our experiment. With loud sighs mixed with laughter, the couple admitted they were relieved and said they weren't sure what to say to the pilots.

What would you do when you're thrust into real-life ethical scenarios? Take the Quiz!

Drunken Pilots: 'I Wouldn't Fly'

The next woman who noticed our pilots' odd behavior expressed concern.

"They're on their way to the airport and they had two drinks," the woman said. "I mean maybe they'll be sober by the time they fly, but holy s***, I hope so."

As the pilots neared the door, she confronted them. "You guys just had drinks, right?" she said. "I've had one drink, I wouldn't fly an airplane."

But when the pilots ignored her advice, no one did anything more to stop them from flying.

Carrie Keating, a psychology professor at Colgate University, explained the likely cause of people's hesitation to intervene.

"The uniform itself speaks volumes, because they are an agent of status," Keating said. "So we think that they know what they are doing."

A federal regulation nicknamed "Bottle to Throttle" prohibits pilots from drinking alcohol less than eight hours before they fly.

Real-life pilot Joe Balzer ran afoul of the law, and paid the price. Bystanders saw Balzer drinking at a bar the night before a flight and alerted authorities. Balzer spent three years in prison.

After being released, Balzer wrote a book, "Flying Drunk," that chronicled the addiction that led to his imprisonment and his subsequent road to recovery.

"I don't understand why people wouldn't want to step in and help," said Balzer, who is now a fully reinstated pilot and often gives speeches on the dangers of alcohol abuse. "Maybe they just don't understand what's at stake."

But back at the bar, a new couple sat with our pilots -- and instead of stopping the pilots from drinking, they joined in and drank with them.

The couple encouraged the pilots to drink more after the group had a first round of shots together.

"We got at least a half an hour before we have to go," said the captain, looking at his watch.

To which the young man countered: "That's at least like four more shots right there."

Would anyone try to prevent the actors they believed to be pilots from going up in the air?

Watch the full story tonight on a special edition of "What Would You Do" at 10 p.m. ET