Feds arrest former Alaska Airlines captain on charges he piloted airliner while drunk

LOS ANGELES -- Federal authorities have arrested a former captain with Alaska Airlines on charges of piloting a plane with passengers while under the influence of alcohol, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

David Hans Arntson, 60, a resident of Newport Beach, was arrested Wednesday morning and was arraigned on the felony charge in federal court in Los Angeles. Arntson was released on a $25,000 bond and was ordered to appear for arraignment on February 10.

According to a criminal complaint, 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. He then flew a plane from Portland, Oregon, 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. 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. After the technician informed Alaska Airlines of the test results, it removed Arntson from all safety-sensitive duties.

Arntson`s co-pilot on the two flights on June 20 remembered seeing the drug tester when the plane landed at John Wayne Airport and recalled Arntson say 'I bet it`s for me,' according to the complaint.

After the June 20, 2014, incident, Arntson 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 U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. '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 statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

Alaska Airlines issued the following statement:

"Alaska Airlines has an uncompromising commitment to safety and compliance and we put the safety of our passengers and our employees above all else. We have a zero tolerance policy for employees, including pilots, who fail alcohol and drug tests. Mr. Arntson was immediately removed from duty, he never flew for Alaska after June 20 and he left the company soon after. We believe he is deserving of the Department of Justice's actions."