Miami, FL - A study released this week by the National Institutes of Health reveals that pilots actually do a better job when drinking on the job or immediately before going to work. The study, due to be published in this month's issue of Nature, was conducted using volunteer boozehounds from five major American carriers, and was conducted over a one-weekend period. Participants were not compensated for their time, but excess candidates still had to be turned away.
The results? "The findings were simply staggering," revealed James Stockmore, head of the project.
Pilots who ingested between eight and ten beers directly before entering a flight simulator experienced increased reaction times, better coordination, and an improved capacity to make decisions under pressure. A control group of sober pilots appeared groggy and confused, and displayed increased levels of surliness. As an unexpected side effect, flight attendants said they found the intoxicated pilots more manly and charming than the control subjects.
The report is especially significant in light of the conviction this week of two former America West pilots, who showed up to work after an all-night drinking binge in July of 2002. Debate has raged as to whether the study will be admissible in court and, if allowed, whether the findings constitute extenuating circumstances. While Florida Assistant State Attorney Deisy Rodriguez called the pair "stumbling, fumbling drunks" and their actions "unconscionable", their lawyer James Rubin maintains that they are heroic trailblazers in the field of inebriation aviation.
"The world is just coming to realize what airline pilots have known for years," said Rubin. "Sucking back a few cold ones gives you the steady nerves you need to wrangle a 100-ton steel bird. My clients had nothing more in mind than the continued safety of their passengers and the operational efficiency of the airline. As a matter of fact, any pilot who enters the cockpit stone cold sober is putting his entire plane in undue jeopardy."
The FAA said it is willing to reconsider the revocation of the men's commercial pilot's licenses in light of the report, though the two still face swift discipline from America West. "We have a reputation to consider," said Doug Parker, the company's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "The alcohol thing, I think we can deal with, but do people really want to fly with a couple of guys too dumb to pop a breath mint before going through security?"