David McNew/Getty
January 22, 2016 10:45 AM

A former Alaska Airlines pilot has been charged with piloting a plane with passengers while under the influence of alcohol, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles said Thursday.

David Hans Arntson, 60, of Newport Beach, California, was arrested Wednesday and arraigned on the felony charge in federal court in Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney said in a statement. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The criminal complaint accuses Arntson of being over the legal alcohol limit when he was randomly selected for testing shortly after piloting a flight from Portland, Oregon, to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, on June 20, 2014.

Arntson had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.134 percent and 0.142 percent in two separate tests, the complaint says. The legal limit to fly a plane is 0.04.

There has been no public comment from Arntson or his attorney.

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Arntson’s co-pilot told investigators that when Arntson saw the drug tester after landing in California, he said, “I bet it’s for me,” the complaint further alleges.

Arntson had flown a second flight earlier the same day, from San Diego to Portland, Oregon, but the complaint only concerns the second flight. He retired from Alaska Airlines after being removed from all safety-sensitive duties following the incident.

“Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”

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