Drunk Pilot Loses Appeal in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania High Court said that a pilot who flew while intoxicated will have to serve an 6 to 23 month jail term imposed by a lower court.

During an April 2006 trial, prosecutors said John V. Salamone ‘risked a catastrophe’ when he piloted his plane near the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant, through restricted airspace and across runways at Philadelphia International Airport without control tower communication. When Salamone was finally forced to land after a four-hour flight, his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit for driving under the influence.

A defense attorney tried to argue that there was no imminent danger even though evidence showed that at least six jet and multi-engine aircraft had to be diverted by air traffic controllers to avoid mid-air collisions with Salamone’s single-engine plane. Plus there was the potential of widespread damage from a nuclear disaster.

Salamone’s private pilot’s license was suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration. His commercial pilot’s license was revoked and he later surrendered his FAA medical certificate which is required by all pilots.

In a twist however, a charge of Pennsylvania DUI was dismissed as it was determined there is no state law against operating an airplane while intoxicated. State lawmakers are now considering such legislation.

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