Ask The Captain: Is My Pilot Flying Drunk?



Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"It feels like you can't turn on the news these days without hearing about a drunk pilot showing up for work ready to fly under the influence. Is this just media hype, or should I really be worried?"  - Kathryn


I hear ya, Kathryn. "THAR she  B L O W S" could be the lead-in line to the almost-monthly apprehension of professional pilots caught while flying legally drunk. But the fact remains that of the 11,000 commercial pilots tested annually, only 12 on average fail to pass. Now, that's not the zero percent we'd like to see, but it does mean that chances are good that your pilot is NOT flying drunk. 

Now, for the rest of the story, which takes us to Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam is known for it's tolerance and quirkiness. 

Tolerance for cafe drug purchases and prostitution in it's Red Light District.

So, against this backdrop of tolerance and quirkiness, I can only imagine the possible initial responses of Captain TriAngle on a recent flight from Amsterdam.



"You want to test me"?

"Meeeeeeeeeeeeee ?"

"You want me to blow into what?"

"That tester?"


"No problem", insists Captain TriAngle , captain, my captain, knower of the rules of the FAA. Rules perhaps welded into his memory during military flight training days.

"Bottle to throttle…eight hours."

"Good to go".

"Yes sir,……… no biggie". Even an ex-Marine pilot can count eight hours using just one hand and one foot.

Then ……………..Puff. He blows.

The results first bring a smile to Capt. TriAngle's face.


"Point zero two three (.023)", says the officer of the law.

"Yes! Yes !" says an ecstatic Capt. TriAngle, thinking this is the greatest possible news.

"I am out of here, dude"………or …rather  ….."Officer……..may I go now?"

But on the face of that officer of the law is a scowl…..not a smile.

"Oh,  Geeeeeeeeeeeez..this can't be good," thinks Captain TriAngle.

"Sir", says the officer of the law……"You are legally drunk."

Captain TriAngle's response might have been, "No, No, …………….Sir, I blew .023, and the legal FAA limit is point zero four (.04)…….I'm home free !!! "

Ooooops-Correction. Not so fast, Captain.  The key word is "HOME".

The officer, with now furrowed brow, gives a curt reply.

"Captain, the flying limit, sir, is point zero two (.02) in Amsterdam, not point zero four (.04).”

Reality Check 

As Dorothy would have said as she arrived in Oz, …..

"TOTO, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more….We must be over the rainbow".

That’s right, Captain TriAngle , over the rainbow you must be.

Now, sir, you will be marched down that Yellow Brick Road. Not to a “happy place”, but instead to a place called “the Slammer”. Enjoy.


Bottom Line: Pilots BEWARE: That “One for the Road” may take you down the Wrong Road!


Answering your questions in our ASK THE CAPTAIN column is, Michael Wiggins, a retired airline pilot who has spent the better part of his life shuttling passengers around the globe. Do you have questions for YourLifeIsATrip's airline pilot? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.  

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