A Feb. 10 arraignment is set for a former Alaska Airlines pilot from Newport Beach who is charged with operating a passenger plane while under the influence of alcohol.
David Hans Arntson, 60, was arrested Wednesday on the federal felony charge and released on a $25,000 bond, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, 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.
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He then piloted a flight from Portland 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, court papers show. A technician for Alaska Airlines performed two tests on Arntson and received results that the pilot had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent, according to the complaint.
After the technician informed Alaska Airlines of the test results, the carrier immediately removed Arntson from all safety-sensitive duties, federal prosecutors said. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a person may not operate a "civil aircraft," such as a commercial airliner, with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater.
Arntson's co-pilot on the two flights remembered seeing the drug tester when the plane landed at John Wayne Airport and recalled Arntson saying, "I bet it's for me," according to the complaint. Arntson has since retired from Alaska Airlines.
"Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible," said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. "We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives."
The charge of operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated a person operating a commercial airliner is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol when his or her blood-alcohol content is 0.10 percent or higher. The correct content percentage is .04, according to the FAA.