Regardless of the occupation, there will always be a percentage of the work force actively battling substance abuse problems. The idea of a house painter or cook working while intoxicated is not all that scary, but when you think of doctors, policemen, and teachers… well that’s another story. How about pilots?
I travel so much that this particular scenario is particularly disturbing, that’s why I am not too sure I want to read Joseph Balzer’s new book Flying Drunk. Balzer was convicted and sent to prison for an infamous flight back in 1990.
Balzer, the flight engineer, was intoxicated on the flight carrying 91 passengers. The flight’s captain, who Balzer described as a tyrant who drank more than a fifth of rum each day, and the first officer also were over the limit… the FAA decided to test the pilots for alcohol in Minneapolis, after the plane landed and some 14 hours after the drinking binge. All were still over the limit. ~ Boston Herald
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Balzer is now nearing two decades of sobriety and back in the cockpit for American Airlines. He has a FAA special medical certification that requires abstinence for life.
It was an uphill struggle that took nine years. In 1999, with 7,800 hours of flight time, eight years of sobriety and an inspirational story of recovery to tell, Balzer was hired by American Airlines [AMR], which is renowned for its employee assistance program.
I’m sure the book would be interesting, but I seriously doubt that it will get on my reading list because of the obvious fear factor. Mr. Balzer, recovering alcoholic and pilot, will just have to settle for a TDA Salute for his courageous comeback- one that I will ask him to share with American Airlines for their awesome assistance program.
Right now there are no comments on the Boston Herald story I have cited above, but I will bet dimes to dollars there will be some negative feedback and ignorant comments posted over there before the night is over.