Just Another California DUI – in a Parking Lot. In an Airplane…

A california DUI in an airplaneDrunk driving in parking lots are nothing new. Bar patrons who should have designated drivers sometimes back into the cars of other patrons. Cops sometimes set up shop near such parking lots hoping to spot impaired drivers.

In fact, one might ask why, if drunk driving is illegal, do bars even have parking lots?

It’s not every day that a plane with a pilot operating under the influence lands in a parking lot, but it appears that it has indeed happened. A Piper Cherokee turned up in a warehouse parking lot in Whittier, California not long ago. Apparently the pilot got lost, ran low on fuel, and had to set down somewhere.

No one was injured, though the pilot did clip a stop sign. He was booked under suspicion of DUI and held in lieu of bail.

Flying under the influence is not unknown. A Canadian pilot was recently convicted of flying with a blood alcohol concentration of 3 times the legal limit.

There have been occasional cases in the US as well – in the past few years a JetBlue Airways pilot and an Alaska Airlines pilot faced impaired flying charges. But the airlines vet and police their pilots well, so it’s not a frequent occurrence.

For what it’s worth, an airplane is not a motor vehicle, according to California DUI law. The California Public Utilities Code sets out the rules for a flying DUI, or FUI:

It is unlawful for any person, who is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, to operate an aircraft in the air, or on the ground or water, or to engage in parachuting for sport.

(b) No person shall operate an aircraft in the air or on the ground or water who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood.

For reference, a BAC of .04 is half the legal limit for motor vehicles, and equivalent to the stricter permissible level for drivers of commercial vehicles. it doesn’t take more than one drink to exceed that level in most people, and for good reason. The consequences of mishandling a plane are unthinkable.

This time it was just a bent stop sign and a damaged wing. But Californians should be glad that, in general, people in the air seem to observe California DUI laws more readily than those on the roadways.