A commercial pilot for Orlando-based Flight Express, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio’s AirNet Cargo, is facing a maximum of 15 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty last month to operating an aircraft while under the influence on December 8 last year. Authorities said the pilot was flying with a blood-alcohol level six times over the legal limit for aviators on a trip between North Carolina and Tampa Fla., at the time of the incident.
Air traffic controllers were alerted to a problem with the pilot when they lost radio contact with the flight and observed it change altitudes and headings without a clearance. A pair of fighters scrambled from nearby Tyndall Air Force Base was able to intercept and escort the aircraft to a safe landing at Tampa.
After landing, the pilot voluntarily submitted to Breathalyzer exams that showed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.274 and 0.272 in two different tests. The FAA’s alcohol limit is 0.04 within eight hours of assuming a PIC role.
AirNet did not acknowledge AIN’s requests for an interview about the incident.