The FAA is investigating the first person accused of violating a 3-week-old federal law prohibiting smoking on domestic flights of two hours or less, an FAA spokeswoman said Friday.
Darryl Seigel, who admitted to taking a few puffs from a cigarette during a Seattle-to-Reno flight Thursday, would face up to $4,000 in fines if the Federal Aviation Administration decides to file charges, spokeswoman Elly Brekke said.
"He's not the first one to smoke on an airplane when they weren't supposed to, but he's the first person to be accused of breaking this new law," Brekke said.
Brekke said statements were taken Friday from the flight and maintenance crews aboard the USAir plane in which Seigel was flying. The investigation should be completed within 60 days, she added.
"These things take time and when we're done we'll notify Mr. Seigel in writing if he's charged," she said.
Seigel, 38, of Seattle, was on the 100-minute flight when he went to the lavatory and took a few secret puffs on a cigarette.
He said he did not purposely break the law but absent-mindedly lit up.
"It was a honest mistake," he said.
Seigel was detained for questioning by Reno Cannon International Airport security for two hours at the request of the flight crew.
Brekke said he faces three possible charges: Smoking when a no-smoking sign is on, which carries a $1,000 fine; smoking in the lavatory, which also carries a $1,000 fine; and tampering with a lavatory smoke detector, which carries a $2,000 fine.
A flight attendant spotted smoke coming from the lavatory after Seigel left it about 20 minutes into the flight, Reno airport spokesman Rich Peacock said. The attendant asked Seigel if he knew about the federal law against smoking on certain flights then informed him that he would be arrested when they landed, Peacock said.
The flight attendant had explained the new law to passengers before the plane took off.
The federal smoking ban on short flights went into effect April 23.