Former pilot charged with flying while drunk

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 24, 2015, an Alaska Airlines jet takes off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN/AP) — A former Alaska Airlines captain has been charged with operating an airliner under the influence of alcohol.

The U.S. attorney’s office says David Hans Arnston, of Newport Beach, California, was arraigned in federal court Thursday on one felony count.

The 60-year-old was freed on a $25,000 bond and ordered to return to court for a hearing February 10.

Authorities say Arnston was tested twice for drugs and alcohol on June 20, 2014, after piloting an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon, to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.

After posting blood-alcohol readings of 0.134 and 0.142 percent, he was removed from what the airline calls safety-sensitive duties. He subsequently retired.

“Unfortunately, about 10% of the population are alcoholics and airline pilots are not necessarily exempt from that,” FAA investigator Tom Young told KOIN 6 News. “It’s such a rare occurrence, that’s why it’s of interest here.”

Young said because this was a particularly rare event, airline passengers shouldn’t worry about this kind of behavior affecting their safety.

“You look at the safety record of airlines the last 10 years, it’s really incredible,” he said.

Arnston could not be contacted for comment Thursday. A phone number listed for him had been disconnected.

He will appear in federal court in February and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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