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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Flying Drunk

In March, 1990, Norm, Bob, and Joe sat in a bar in Morehead, Minnesota, and drank for about eight hours straight. Norm had 15-20 rum-and-cokes. Bob and Joe split a half-dozen pitchers of beer. The next morning, less than 10 hours later, they got on a Northwest flight to Minneapolis, except they didn't sit in the back with the other passengers.

Norm, Bob, and Joe were the flight crew, and they were still a little toasted. Fortunately, they flew the Boeing 727 safely and the 91 people behind them never knew that the cockpit was full of drunks. But when the FAA learned the truth, all three of the men had their flying licenses revoked, were tried and convicted, and went off to prison for a year or two.

Nearly two decades later, Joe Balzer is sober and flying again, as a pilot for American Airlines. Today on KTRS/St. Louis, we talked about that day, the regulations that allowed an incident like that to happen, how it wasn't the first time, and how he can reassure the flying public that it's less likely that your pilot is going to be drunk or hungover these days.

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Joe tells more of his story in his book, "Flying Drunk."