Drunk-Flying Suspect Had Drunk-Driving Record

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The Pennsylvania man who in January was arrested and charged with flying while drunk (for four hours, low over populated areas, through controlled airspace without contacting ATC, forcing diversion of a half-dozen airliners, and within 900 feet of a loaded Boeing 747) had twice been convicted of drunken driving -- in 1989 and 1990, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday. He had also been charged with public intoxication just months before the flight that got him in trouble. Since 1990, more than 3,000 pilots have lost their medical and airman certificates due to drug or alcohol problems, the FAA says. That's nearly one-third of all revocations issued by the agency, but the Pennsylvania pilot was not among them. The FAA's rule that requires pilots to report DUI suspensions didn't go into effect until November 1990. Even now, pilots are not required to report convictions not related to driving. An FAA study of fatal accidents from 1994-98 (during which time the reporting rule has been in effect) found alcohol was present in the blood of about 7 percent of the pilots who died. The FAA now checks the National Driver Register for DUI violations against pilots, and pilots who fail to report those violations within 60 days may have their certificate suspended. The FAA may deny an application for, and suspend or revoke, an airman certificate or rating if an individual has had two or more alcohol-related motor vehicle convictions or state motor vehicle administrative actions within a three-year period.