Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Intoxicated Pilot Removed from Plane; Flying Drunk Still Relevant Today

Flying Drunk: The True Story of a Northwest Airlines Flight, Three Drunk Pilots, and one Man's Fight for Redemption By Joe Balzer (Savas Beatie, 2009)

On January 4, 2013, an American Eagle captain was removed from an aircraft carrying 53 passengers set to leave the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport due to intoxication.

Since 2008, the number of intoxicated pilots has held steady. 

“One of the most notorious cases of a pilot drinking and flying occurred in 1990, when the captain, flight engineer and first officer were arrested when their flight from Fargo landed at the Twin Cities airport,” wrote Paul Walsh from Star Tribune.

On March 8, 1990, an intoxicated three-man crew, including Flight Engineer Joseph Balzer, flew a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 with 91 passengers aboard from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Joe Balzer had always dreamed of flying. He pursued his goal with a vigorous passion and earned his pilot licenses, piling up hours of flight time with a wide variety of planes and jets with one overarching goal: to one day fly for a major airline. But Joe had a problem. He was an alcoholic and refused to admit to himself that he had a problem. 

“I compromised my own personal value system,” said Joe Balzer, “Alcohol got the best of me again, and it was going to ruin my career. I didn’t realize I was an alcoholic; I didn’t want to be one of ‘those’ people.”
Joe Balzer’s book, Flying Drunk, is a journey of the human spirit, from childhood to hell, and back again. “We need to get help for pilots who are tempted to drink, because when we do, we have the highest success rate,” said Balzer.

Balzer and the recent American Eagle incident are not the only pilot intoxications to ever make headlines. Hollywood has also taken a stab at the issue with Denzel Washington’s new movie Flight about an airline pilot who saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals signs of intoxication.

About the Author

Joe Balzer is currently a pilot for American Airlines with more than 15,000 hours of flight experience. He has a Master's Degree in Aerospace Education and is also an inspirational speaker, traveling around the country speaking to pilots and other groups on the dangers of alcohol and other addictions, bringing his audience to laughter and tears with his powerful message of hope. Joe lives in Tennessee. Flying Drunk is his first book.

For more information, visit the book's page.