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Pilot is charged with flying Alaska Airlines plane while drunk

A Newport Beach airline pilot has been arrested and charged with piloting an Alaska Airlines jet full of passengers while under the influence of alcohol, authorities said Thursday.

David Hans Arntson, 60, was arrested Wednesday morning and appeared in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 10.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Pilot charged: In the Jan. 25 California section, an article about an Alaska Airlines pilot facing alcohol charges said that federal law considers commercial airline pilots intoxicated if their blood-alcohol concentration is 0.10% or higher. That is the threshold in the U.S. code under which the pilot is being charged. The FAA has its own regulation that limits blood alcohol to 0.04%. —
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Arntson had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.134% and 0.142% in random tests conducted 15 minutes apart on June 20, 2014, according to an affidavit by an investigator with the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.

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Arntson is being prosecuted under federal law, which considers commercial airline pilots intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.10% or greater. The Federal Aviation Administration has a blood alcohol limit of 0.04%.

The tests were performed by an Alaska Airlines technician at a restroom inside the terminal at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, according to the affidavit. That day, Arntson had piloted two Alaska Airlines flights: one from San Diego to Portland, and a second from Portland to John Wayne, according to  the affidavit.

The technician was waiting for Arntson when the plane approached the gate. His co-pilot told federal investigators that when Arntson saw the drug tester waiting at the plane’s gate, he said, “I bet it’s for me.”

Arntson, who had worked for Alaska Airlines since 1982, was removed from “safety sensitive duties” that day, according to the airline. He later retired from the airline.

In an interview this fall at his Newport Beach home, Arntson told investigators that he didn’t have issues with alcohol or substance abuse, and that the night before the flight, he had ordered a beer for dinner and sipped it.

He tried to have his own blood test conducted after learning of the positive breathalyzer result from the airline’s chief pilot. He said a blood test the following morning showed he had no alcohol in his body, according to the affidavit.

If convicted, Arntson faces up to 15 years in federal prison. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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