MINNEAPOLIS, OCT. 26 -- Three former Northwest Airlines pilots convicted of flying a passenger plane while intoxicated were sentenced to prison today, two for a year and the other to 16 months.
U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum also imposed three years' probation on each, telling them their actions amounted to a breach of faith with the traveling public and "a crime against our sense of security."
Capt. Norman Lyle Prouse, 51, of Conyers, Ga., an acknowledged alcoholic whose blood-alcohol level was the highest in a test given two hours after his plane landed, was sentenced to 16 months in prison. 1st Officer Robert Kirchner, 36, of Highland Ranch, Colo., and flight engineer Joseph Balzer, 35, of Antioch, Tenn., got one-year sentences. All were were convicted of flying while intoxicated March 8 on a flight from Fargo, N.D., to Minneapolis.
At the trial, they argued that the fact that the 40-minute flight, which had 91 passengers, was uneventful showed that they were not rendered incapable of flying by the alcohol they had drunk the night before. Prouse admitted drinking more than 15 rum and colas at a lounge the night before the flight, and Balzer and Kirchner shared at least six pitchers of beer.
They were the first pilots to be convicted under a 1986 law aimed at cracking down on substance abuse in the transportation industry.
The sentences were within federal guidelines, which recommended 12 to 18 months; the maximum would have been 15 years.