By Talia Avakian
July 27, 2018
An Alaska Airlines aircraft takes to the skies.
Credit: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

A former Alaska Airlines pilot, David Hans Arntson, of Newport Beach, California, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison on Wednesday after admitting to piloting a plane carrying more than 80 passengers while under the influence of alcohol.

In an announcement put out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, officials said Arntson, who served as a captain for the airline for more than 20 years, had admitted to flying two planes while intoxicated on June 20, 2014. The first was from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon, and the second from Portland to Orange County, California’s John Wayne Airport.

At John Wayne Airport, an airline technician stopped Arntson for a random drug and alcohol test, conducting two breathalyzer tests that showed his blood alcohol concentration levels came in well above the federal limit of 0.04, hitting 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent.

After being immediately removed from any safety-sensitive duties, Arntson retired from the airline and agreed in February to plead guilty to federal charges of piloting the planes while under the influence.

He had his piloting ability revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine in addition to his sentence. Prosecutors alleged he hid his drinking from the airline for "at least a substantial portion" of his more than 20 years with them.

“This defendant was at the controls during hundreds of flights carrying innumerable passengers — undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol during many of those trips,” U.S. State Attorney Nicole T. Hanna said in the release.

“Fortunately, he was finally caught, and the risk to passengers was stopped,” Hanna said, adding that the case should be a warning to all in the aviation industry that passenger safety is of the utmost importance.

Alaska Airlines spokesperson Ann Johnson told Travel + Leisure that while the airline does not comment on the specifics of misconduct by former employees, "safety is the top priority at Alaska Airlines" and airline representatives "are gratified that this individual will be held accountable for his actions."