When Jimmy Carrillo was pulled over for running a stop sign in North Naples, it appeared to be a routine DUI stop. Carrillo, 35 of Daytona Beach, failed to stop near the Mercado on U.S. 41. He told officers that he’d just been drinking at the Blue Martini. When asked how much he had been drinking, Carrillo held up four fingers and told the officers that he had only consumed two drinks.
The difference between Carrillo’s case and any other DUI stop is that Carrillo is a commercial airline pilot for U.S. Airways. During his stop, he didn’t know what city he was in, he stated that he thought he was in Fort Myers and had to be reminded he was in North Naples. He also told police that he was due to fly in 12 hours. Reportedly, the airline has suspended Carrillo pending an investigation into the outcome into this case.
Commercial airline pilots are held to a higher standard when it comes to operating an airline while impaired because of the severe amount of damage that can occur if they make a mistake because they are drunk or high. The FAA notoriously has a long list of medications that can or cannot be taken by pilots within a certain number of hours before flying, even ones which normally not be something to be perceived as a medication that causes impairment such as antidepressants, asthma medications or erectile dysfunction medications.
The law is very clear when it comes to alcohol use by commercial airline pilots. Pilots are not allowed to fly at all within 8 hours of drinking any alcoholic beverage. Under no exception are they allowed to fly with more than a .04% BAC. The law also makes it illegal to be at all under the influence of alcohol while flying.
However, what the law says and what the FAA recommends a pilot do if he or she has been drinking is different. FAA recommendations are much stricter and generally says that simply following an 8 hour “bottle to throttle” rule is not enough. The FAA suggests that waiting a full 24 hours after drinking is a better option before flying and also suggests that pilots don’t fly at all if they are hungover, even if they aren’t really drunk anymore, since that can also affect their ability to fly a plane.
Without knowing what Carrillo’s BAC was at the time he was arrested, it is not really possible to determine whether he would have had an illegal amount of alcohol in his system at the time he was due to fly the plane, although it does seem possible. Even if he had let enough time pass so that he didn’t have a BAC over .04%, it does seem likely that he still would have been otherwise impaired or hungover.