SANTA ANA, California – A former captain with Alaska Airlines has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of piloting a plane carrying passengers while he was under the influence of alcohol.
David Hans Arntson, 62, of Newport Beach, agreed to plead guilty to operating a common carrier while under the influence in a plea agreement filed this morning in United States District Court.
According to court documents, Arntson was the pilot of two Alaska Airlines flights on June 20, 2014. The first flight was from San Diego International Airport to Portland, Oregon. He then flew a plane from Portland, Oregon, to John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
After landing at John Wayne Airport, Arntson was selected for random drug and alcohol testing by Alaska Airlines. A technician for Alaska Airlines performed two breathalyzer tests that showed the pilot had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent. “Those percentages were well above the federal limit of 0.04 percent for pilots,” according to the plea agreement.
After the technician informed Alaska Airlines of the test results showing alcohol in his system, the airline removed Arntson from all safety-sensitive duties. Following the June 20, 2014, incident, Arntson retired from the Alaska Airlines, and the Federal Aviation Administration revoked his ability to pilot a plane.
“This pilot worked for the airline for more than 20 years, and we now know that he was an alcoholic who flew commercial flights while under the influence of alcohol,” said United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna. “When he was finally caught, the evidence indicates that he had flown with an alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. Thankfully, Mr. Arntson was never involved in an accident, but his conduct could have resulted in tragic consequences. Very few people will ever hold the lives of so many people in their hands at one time.”
In the plea agreement filed today, the parties have agreed that the appropriate sentence in this case is one year and a day in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney will schedule a hearing for Arntson to enter his guilty plea.
The investigation into Arntson was conducted by the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General.
“This guilty plea demonstrates that ensuring the safety of the travelling public within the nation’s air transportation system remains a high priority for both the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Transportation (DOT),” said William Swallow, DOT-OIG Regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Working with the Federal Aviation Administration and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our efforts to prevent and punish those who seek to compromise the safety of our national airspace system.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis Mitchell and Mark A. Williams of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.
Release No. 18-020