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ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - Explaining a complex instrumentation panel is the job of flight instructor Haskell Pryor.
He trains future pilots at Aviator College in Ft. Pierce. One golden rule, no drinking before flying.
"If there's any alcohol in a pilots system… he's under the influence," Pryor said.
Over the weekend, a pilot coming in to the St. Lucie County International Airport was arrested for operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol.
36 year-old David King of New Port Richey was arrested after a helicopter pilot with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office noticed a plane flying low and attempting several landings early Sunday morning around 1:30.
Deputies were called to the airport, and an Florida Highway Patrol DUI enforcement trooper was also contacted.
According to the FHP report, King had a distinct odor of alcohol on his breath.
Pryor says just like in a car, operating a plane under the influence is very dangerous, especially with an added dimension.
"Altitude control is certainly critical, otherwise you fly a perfectly good airplane into the surface of the earth," Pryor said.
Based on the tail number, we found a flight plan for King's plane on a flight tracking website.
The plane had left from Kissimmee late Saturday night headed for Stuart's Witham Field. But somewhere along the way, the plane detoured to St. Lucie County. The plane's transponder showed lots of altitude changes at the end, indicating perhaps multiple landing attempts.
A passenger in King's plane, 47 year-old John Gibson of Tarpon Springs, was also arrested on drug possession charges.
According to the arrest report, Gibson also had a pilot's license but was too drunk to fly.
The plane is registered to a man in Ohio but it does say it has more than one owner. Under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, no one is allowed to fly a plane within 8 hours of drinking alcohol.
The agency will look into the case.
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