According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), nearly 70 million passengers traveled on US airlines in the month of April, 2010 alone. Each of those passengers is relying on the pilot to get them to their destination safely and with any luck, on time. An alarming number of reports reveal pilots are taking to the air under the influence of alcohol.
As recent as September, another pilot already on the runway preparing for takeoff was stopped and removed from the plane departing from Amsterdam headed for New York. This is not a new problem. In 2002, two pilots were arrested when they were about to pilot a plane from Miami to Phoenix. In trial testimony, it was said they spent several hours in a sports bar consuming 14 glasses of beer and left the bar just 6 hours prior to takeoff.
One of the pilots had been on probation for a highway DUI just months before. In October 2008, a United Airlines pilot was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence. The Heathrow flight was heading for San Francisco. As part of an educational program developed in the early 90'S, the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) published a safety brochure which compiled the fatality statistics and detailing the effects of alcohol to a pilot. Between the years 1987 - 1993, there was an average of 362 aviation pilot fatalities.
More than 7% were found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BOC) of 0.04% or higher. In the United States, the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle for drivers 21 and older in 0.08%. Drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle with any level of alcohol in their system. I don't know about you but I prefer my pilot to be fully alert at 36,000 feet in the air. The FAA details the notification procedure relating to Airmen DUI/DWI.
Unfortunately, this relates to any MVA conviction so if they don't get caught, the FAA will never be notified. There are car breathalyzers also known as an ignition interlock device, which requires a driver to breathe into the device before starting the car. If the breathalyzer detects a certain amount of alcohol, the car simply will not start. Perhaps a similar technology needs to be installed in planes.