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7 Answers

If you departing from an airport and you smell alcohol from captain?

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7 Answers



  1. Aaron on Jan 28, 2014

    Actually had a question like this in college. The proper thing to do would be to tell the captain that you believe they are still under the influence. However, remember the smell of alcohol alone could be one of many indications. Consider all available signs, and if you conclude they are still under the effects of alcohol, give the captain the option to call in sick before getting the chain of command involved. This saves them the embarrassment and possible corrective action, and it stays between you and the captain. If he refuses, then you can turn to the union (if you have one) and then consider going to company leadership. This is he best way to save both yours and the captains ego. Though, admittedly, I haven’t made it to the paying gigs yet so I can’t offer anything experience-wise, but that should be a broadly acceptable way to go about it.

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  2. Kris Kortokrax on Jan 28, 2014

    What college would consider offering advice which would emphasize avoiding any corrective action and embarrassment over the safety of a flight? The company and the regulating authority should definitely be notified.

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  3. aaron on Jan 29, 2014

    It doesn’t jeopardize the safety of the flight if the captain chooses to right his wrong and not take the flight. This is what one former airline pilot had told us was company policy for the company at which she had flown, and it seems like a good one to me. Minimize the damage and the flight will be conducted safely with a new crew member. Repeat offenses are another story.

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  4. Kris Kortokrax on Jan 29, 2014

    The problem with your theory is that 120.217(d) calls for alcohol testing when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an employee has violated regulations concerning alcohol use. That determination is to be made by a supervisor. As a crewmember subordinate to the captain, you are not by definition a supervisor. Your sole duty is to inform the supervisor, not to usurp his authority and arbitrarily make the decision for him/her.

    The pilot has the opportunity to “right his wrong”, by calling in sick before showing up at the airport. The poster’s question appears to me to be a scenario where the captain has showed up for duty with alcohol on his breath.

    Using your method, how would anyone know about repeat offenses unless the captain flew with the same crewmember on every flight and that same crewmember kept records of how many times his captain showed up with alcohol on his breath?

    I cannot imagine a company that would have such a policy and I cannot imagine a POI who would endorse such a policy.

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  5. aaron on Jan 29, 2014

    I’m just the messenger. The point of giving the captain the opportunity before going over his head is to prevent earning a reputation within a company as a “difficult” and “unfair” FO, and therefore enhancing job security. The supervisor makes the call whether to test or not, yes. So if they are not involved, they cannot decide. The responsibility of a subordinate reporting to a supervisor appears to be one of those FAR gray areas. the union would have something to say about that. Of course flight safety is always paramount, and that is why the flight should never be operated (and why you do go to the supervisors if the captain refuses) There is nothing wrong with reporting it first, it just may rub people-powerful people in the company-the wrong way. of course, that’s what unions are for. But the union is also there to protect the other guy. It’s a tough call, but personally I have an objection to keeping quiet on this offense. Because alcoholism is a serious disease that has had an impact on prior close to me, I tend to personally take a zero tolerance stance on the issue. So yes, personally I agree with you. I’m just presenting an alternative that was presented to me some time ago.

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  6. Matthew Waugh on Jan 30, 2014

    This is a classic interview question – and it depends on who is asking the question and the culture of the company you are interviewing with. Although it’s certainly fun reading the holier than thou answers.

    The fundamental result must be that the flight not be operated – how that is achieved, talking to the company, convincing the other pilot to call in sick, calling in sick yourself etc. are situationally dependent (because we live in the real world).

    It’s like the other question – “your crew agrees to go out to dinner on a layover, and the Captain meets you in the lobby wearing a dress – what do you do?”

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  7. Kris Kortokrax on Feb 03, 2014

    I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess that I must be “holier than thou” (a characterization that would amuse my friends).

    I reiterate that my response to the possibly inebriated captain would be quite different were he to be calling in sick from his hotel, instead of showing up at the gate for a flight. At that point it is time to get the company and the authorities involved.

    Also, the other question is nothing like the question of the captain showing up at the gate smelling of alcohol. First, the “other question” is dealing with off duty conduct. Second, there is no regulation concerning the captain wearing a dress.

    P.S., if the captain met me in the lobby wearing a dress, I would invite her out for dinner and drinks and we could both call in sick the next day.

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