According to an AP Article, the pilot of an ultralight aircraft was sentenced to 8 months in jail for crashing his ultralight aircraft into a lake while he was drunk. The accident occurred a year ago on Gull Lake in northern Minnesota. The pilot’s passenger in the ultralight was injured. When the pilot was arrested 20 minutes after the accident, he had a blood alcohol concentration of .24 (three times the .08 legal limit in MN). Although the pilot claimed he only consumed alcohol on the rescue boat and on shore after the crash, the prosecution’s toxicologist testified that the pilot would have had to consume 11 shots of 100-proof alcohol to have a .24 blood alcohol concentration between the time of the crash and when officers arrived. Quite unlikely.
Interestingly, the article also indicates that the pilot had six prior “driving while intoxicated incidents,” although it is unclear whether the pilot was actually convicted of DWI six times. So, was the FAA involved? Hard to say. However, if we assume that the pilot held an airman certificate at the time of the crash (even though not required for operation of an ultralight aircraft), it is almost certain that the FAA revoked the pilot’s airman certificate under FARs 91.17(a) (no person may act as a crewmember of an aircraft while under the influence) and 91.13(a) (careless and reckless).
Additionally, it is quite likely that the airman probably did not have a medical certificate at the time of the accident. Since the six “incidents” were likely all reportable under FAR 61.15(e), once the FAA learned of at least two, and certainly if it knew about three, of the “incidents” the FAA would have revoked the pilot’s medical certificate under FAR 67.307(a) (substance dependence or substance abuse disqualifies a person from holding a third-class medical certificate). After all, as far as the FAA is concerned, three DWI’s in a lifetime are considered alcoholism unless proven otherwise.
Of course, we don’t know whether my assumptions are correct since the article does not discuss these issues. However, it is safe to say that this case is yet another example of how an airman may be exposed to criminal liability in addition to any FAA enforcement action he or she may face for improper operation of an aircraft.