A Chautauqua Airlines pilot was ready to fly a plane of twenty-nine passengers until a shuttle bus driver alerted airport police that he might be drunk. The drunk pilot failed a blood-alcohol test and fortunately was kept off the plane while authorities investigated the situation. The FAA has a “bottle-to-throttle” rule which prohibits pilots from flying within eight hours of consuming alcohol or if their blood-alcohol level is 0.04 percent or higher. However, Chautauqua has even stricter rules.
Frontier Airlines spokeswoman Lindsey Carpenter said, “Because this is a personnel issue, we can’t and won’t comment on specifics other than to say that because of concern for the condition of the crew member, the crew member was replaced,” Carpenter said. “Frontier and Chautauqua have a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol that has resulted in a 100% safety record for both carriers.” In addition, “Appropriate action will be taken with the crew member when our investigation is complete,” she said.
One question that remains is, if the shuttle bus driver would not have alerted the police, would anyone have noticed the pilot was intoxicated? Could the drunk pilot have flown if that one employee would not have spoken? Research has shown in all types of environments workers are often hesitant to speak up.
In 2006, Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson and Penn State professor James Detert explored the challenges employees face speaking up to internal authorities within a company. They claimed, “Research has shown that two beliefs are essential preconditions for the free expression of upward voice: first, the belief that one is not putting oneself at significant risk of personal harm (e.g., embarrassment, loss of material resources) and second, the belief that one is not wasting one’s time in speaking up. In short, voice must be seen as both safe and worthwhile. Anything an organization can do to prevent the widespread belief that voice is unsafe or not worth your time is likely to increase the upward communication flow.”
The unidentified shuttle bus driver is to be commended for speaking up. His proactive actions may have saved the lives of at least thirty people, if not more. Although, regulations exist to prevent drunk pilots from flying, someone has to speak up to push for the pilots to be checked. Not every pilot’s blood-alcohol level is tested prior to their scheduled flights. Hopefully, this incident will prompt others to speak up in the future when they think a pilot or anyone else on the flight staff are intoxicated.