Enforcement of Piloting Under Influence

Many of the laws that apply to driving under the influence also apply to flying under the influence. In addition to state and federal laws concerning alcohol consumption and flying, pilots also have to follow Federal Aviation Regulations, which are determined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

To enforce laws concerning the consumption of alcohol and flying, the FAA began post-accident alcohol testing on nearly 100% of pilots who were involved in air traffic accidents as of 1964. The testing helped officials to determine whether or not alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident and what penalties to impose upon the pilot, if any.

As a preventative measure, legislation was passed in 1995, making random alcohol testing of pilots a requirement. The bill made it mandatory for the FAA to found a program that requires air carriers to perform random alcohol testing of airline employees. The bill applies especially to those aircraft workers who have safety-sensitive duties. The law made it mandatory for employers to test 25% of their workers with safety-sensitive responsibilities annually.

Additionally, each year approximately 10,000 United States air transport pilots are subjected to federally mandated on-duty random alcohol breathalyzer tests. In 2003, these tests showed a positive result rate of 0.0007%.

Pilot background checks are used to search for DUI convictions. Pilots are required to report any previous DUI convictions to the FAA, as well as any penalties imposed upon them due to the conviction. A pilot’s flying license can be suspended, and aspiring pilots can be denied licenses if his or her driver’s license has been suspended two times in the past three years.

The policy of conducting background checks on pilots has been in effect since 1987. If a pilot fails to report a previous conviction to the FAA, he or she could receive a $250,000 fine, imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

Pilots, like automobile drivers and boat operators, are subject to the implied consent law. This means that if a pilot is asked by law enforcement officials to be tested for drugs or alcohol, he or she must submit to the test. Implied consent laws state that by taking the wheel of any vehicle, one consents to being tested if suspected of operating the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Refusal to take the test results in fines, automatic license suspension, or the revocation of flying rights, which in some states lasts as long as a year.