A Florida jury has returned a guilty verdict against both of the former America West pilots for operating an Airbus 319 while intoxicated. This isn’t a big surprise. I am not sure about Florida law, but I know this decision is consistent with Minnesota law regarding being in control of a motor vehicle for DWI purposes. The threshold for establishing control is very minimal. If the law in Florida is similar, I am sure the jury found it very easy to decide that the pilots were in control of and operating the aircraft.
I would have been surprised if the jury had actually bought into the argument that the pilots were not “operating” the aircraft. After all, the pilots had to have completed multiple operational and systems checks prior to push-back. Not to mention the fact that regardless of who was steering the aircraft during pushback, the pilots still had sufficient control of the Airbus that they could have started the engines if they so desired.
It will be interesting to see whether the defendants appeal the verdict and also what type of sentence the judge imposes.