A JetBlue pilot was charged Wednesday with flying under the influence of alcohol after shuttling passengers between New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and Orlando, Florida. ABC News reported the pilot, Dennis Murphy, was selected for — and failed — random alcohol testing on April 21, 2015, according to a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.
The breath technician who tested Murphy said in the complaint that the pilot's "face was red, and he was chewing gum rapidly." After allegedly blowing an 0.111 and a 0.091, Murphy reportedly defended himself by claiming it "must have been caused by the gum."
Murphy was tested after flight No. 584 from Orlando landed at JFK airport with 151 passengers on board, following an earlier flight that day to Orlando with 119 passengers on board. It's alleged he first blew the 0.111, then blew the 0.091 about 15 minutes later during a second test. Under federal law airline pilots can be tested at random, after an accident or if impairment is suspected.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) April 27, 2016
To face criminal charges under federal law, a commercial pilot has to register a blood-alcohol content of 0.1 percent or higher, reported the New York Daily News. The limit for driving a car in the U.S. is .08 percent. But a separate rule by the Federal Aviation Administration sets the limit for a pilot's blood alcohol content at 0.04 percent. Since 1995, 225 commercial pilots have reportedly tested above that blood-alcohol limit.
Murphy's co-pilot reportedly said he was "drinking an unknown beverage from a cup before and during" both flights.
If convicted, the maximum penalty for Murphy, who had been hired by JetBlue just three months prior, is 15 years. JetBlue immediately removed Murphy from flight status, and the pilot later resigned. The airline said in a statement it has a "zero tolerance" drug and alcohol policy.
Murphy was released on $50,000 bond after appearing at a federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York City Wednesday.