Pilot convicted of trying to fly while drunk; had BAC of 0.343%

Posted at 5:02 PM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 17:02:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Florida pilot has been convicted in federal court of flying under the influence of alcohol.

Sean Fitzgerald, 35, was convicted after arriving at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan to co-pilot a private charter to Bedford, Massachusetts on August 25, 2016 intoxicated. He went to the plane and began pre-flight preparations.  Fitzgerald inspected the plane, completed systems checks, turned on auxiliary power and received clearance from air traffic control for his flight’s route, before he was arrested.

Witnesses said that Fitzgerald was slurring his speech and smelled of alcohol at the time.  After his arrest, his blood alcohol content was measured to be 0.343%.

“Aircraft are complex machines and intoxicated operation poses a danger to passengers, the ground crew at the airport, and the public even before they begin to taxi,” Acting U.S. Attorney Birge said in a press statement. “I commend airport personnel and law enforcement for their swift action to prevent this defendant from flying the plane, but that does not lessen the gravity of his crime.”

Fitzgerald could be sentenced to a maximum term of fifteen years in prison.  His trial lasted four days and was held in federal court in Grand Rapids.