A drunk co-pilot, who was arrested after a colleague noticed his bizarre behavior, has been fired by Talon Air. Early Thursday morning, Captain Manny Ramirez was about take off in a charter plane with a co-pilot at Cherry Capital Airport in Grand Traverse County, Michigan when he noticed something was wrong.
According to Traverse City police Capt. Kevin Dunklow, Ramirez realized that his co-pilot whose identity has not been revealed was acting strangely and took action. The plane was heading to Bedford, Massachusetts.
Authorities were called to the aircraft where the suspected drunk pilot was removed and asked to take a breath test that revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.30, nearly four times the legal threshold for drunken driving. The pilot was arrested. The 12 passengers were taken off the plane as police investigated the matter.
Talon Air rapidly moved to fire him. In a statement the company also praised Ramirez for his quick thinking. The statement read:
“We are very proud of Captain Manny Ramirez’ immediate action in detecting the co-pilot’s condition and removing him from his position.This is yet another example of Talon Air’s safety procedures working effectively on behalf of our clients and for airport safety. The individual in question has been immediately terminated.”
The accused pilot, 35, is from Florida and is in the Grand Traverse County jail awaiting arraignment, which could come as early as Friday. He has refused to talk to the media about the incident. According to experts:
“Michigan law prohibits flying an airplane under the influence of alcohol. Pilots or crew members cannot fly if their blood-alcohol content is 0.02 percent or more, or within eight hours of drinking alcohol. A conviction on the misdemeanor charge is punished by up to 93 days in jail.”
Mr. Dunklow also issued a statement detailing the surprising arrest:
“Police received a call Thursday morning after dispatchers for Talon Air, the flight’s operator, contacted airport tower personnel. They did so after the pilot called the company’s dispatchers to report that his co-pilot was acting odd.
Police found the co-pilot,sitting in the co-pilot chair preparing for take-off with his headset on. Police escorted him off the plane and performed a field-sobriety test. A preliminary breath test showed the co-pilot had a blood-alcohol content of 0.30.
Police took the co-pilot to Munson Medical Center for a blood draw, and he is being held at the Grand Traverse County’s jail.”
Airport Director Kevin Klein spoke to local media saying that stories of drunken pilots getting arrested at his airport are rare. He shared:
“I’ve been here since 2002, and it’s the first time… it’s happened that I know of.”
Klein wrote an incident report that said:
“Airport operations personnel were headed to the parked plane when an Avflight ground crewmember told them that something was not right with one of the pilots, but they didn’t smell alcohol in his presence.”
Elizabeth Cory, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, said the pilot could lose his license and added:
“A pilot’s license is a combination of a medical certificate, and a knowledge certificate similar to what you’d have for driving a car.This type of event causes a reexamination of the medical certificate.
The FAA would encourage a pilot involved in such an incident to seek treatment, and monitor that treatment as part of their medical certification reapplication. The administration decides on a case-by-case basis whether to suspend a pilot’s license.
Pilots are obligated to be fit for duty when they report. That includes being well-rested and drug- and alcohol-free. It’s up to the airline whether a pilot or other employee is obligated to report their coworker’s suspected intoxication.”
In late May, American Airlines co-pilot John Maguire made headlines after it was discovered that he was drunk like a sailor on board a Detroit-to-Philadelphia flight at Detroit Metro Airport
The pilot’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, according to Detroit police.