Alert screener keeps drunk pilots grounded

Friday, July 12, 2002

As if airline travelers didn't have enough to worry about already, what with continued threats of terrorism and the extra time needed to get through airport security that often is too lax, now we have the case of the drunk pilots.

Two America West pilots have been fired and have had their licenses revoked as the result of attempting to fly a plane carrying 124 passengers from Miami to Phoenix. A security screener smelled alcohol and notified authorities.

It wasn't until the pilots had taxied the plane into position for takeoff, however, that authorities were able to convince the two pilots to return to the gate, where they were arrested and found to have blood-alcohol levels over the legal limit.

No airline officially condones drunk pilots. But the fact that two intoxicated pilots could come that close to takeoff is enough to give anyone pause.

Passengers owe a big debt to the screener who failed to be intimidated by the pilots and appropriately followed through. Let's hope others will be as bold if the need arises.

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