Alaska Pilot Grounded By Bootlegging Laws

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An Alaska pilot who was convicted of bootlegging will get to keep his Cessna 206, a judge ruled this week. Air taxi operator Ken Jouppi was convicted in August for letting a passenger load alcohol onto an airplane in April 2012 to fly into the remote village of Beaver, home to fewer than 100 people, where alcohol is banned. The case "serves as a precautionary tale for pilots," according to the local Alaska Dispatch. There are 77 communities in Alaska that ban the importation and sale of alcohol. The passenger who loaded the beer onto the airplane served three days in jail and paid a $1,500 fine. Jouppi also was fined, and his airplane was locked up for more than a year.

The case raises concerns for commercial pilots and air carrier/air taxi operators in Alaska, according to the Dispatch, but Gustaf Olson, an assistant district attorney for Alaska, said the pilot's knowledge is key. "The question ultimately hinges on 'knowingly,'" Olson wrote in an email. "If the pilot or charter has actual knowledge of the alcohol transported (or attempted to be transported) obviously he is liable. However, the pilot is also liable if the pilot 'turns a blind eye' to the bootlegging and through willful blindness chooses to ignore signs or obvious indicators of bootlegging activity." Jouppi said he plans to appeal his conviction.