NEW YORK – A commercial pilot was under the influence of alcohol while flying a JetBlue airliner carrying 151 passengers last year from Orlando to New York City, federal prosecutors said today.
A criminal complaint says Dennis Murphy Jr. was selected for a random alcohol test after Flight 584 landed at Kennedy Airport on April 21, 2015. The court papers allege the test found that his blood-alcohol level was 0.11, exceeding the .04 legal limit for pilots.
A co-pilot later told investigators he saw Murphy “drinking an unknown beverage from a cup before and during” Flight 584 and another flight earlier in the day from New York to Orlando, the complaint says. On the way to being tested for alcohol, the pilot was red-faced and “chewing gum rapidly,” it adds.
Murphy was released on $50,000 bond after appearing Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn. There was no immediate response to a phone message left with his attorney.
In a statement, JetBlue said it has a “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy, and that Murphy no longer works there.
The case follows that of an Alaska Airlines captain who is scheduled to go on trial in July on federal felony charges that while drunk he flew a plane full of passengers from Portland, Oregon, to Orange County, California. And In March, an American Airlines co-pilot was arrested when he failed a sobriety test before a flight in Detroit.
Under federal law, airlines can test pilots for alcohol and drug use at random. They also can be tested after an accident or when impairment is suspected.
According to records from the Federal Aviation Administration, 225 pilots for commercial airlines have tested above the legal blood-alcohol limit since 1995.
In 2015, there were 56,327 tests given to workers in the airline industry including pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and air traffic controllers. Of those, 119 people tested above the limit – or 0.2 percent – the FAA said. Also, aviation workers failed 1,546 of 218,448 drug tests.