A JetBlue pilot accused of flying drunk from New York City to Orlando, and then back, has claimed that it was not an alcoholic beverage that affected his blood alcohol levels, but chewing gum.
According to federal complaint recently made public, JetBlue pilot Dennis Murphy Jr. was subjected to a random alcohol test when he landed in New York after the return flight last year on April 21. Murphy blew a .111 during the first test, and then a .091 when he took the test 15 minutes later. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a pilot cannot operate an aircraft if his BAC is .04 percent or higher.
“During the walk to the on-site testing office at JFK Airport, Murphy’s face was red and he was chewing gum rapidly,” according to the complaint. His copilot also told authorities that he saw the pilot “drinking an unknown beverage from a cup” before and during each flight.
Murphy, who was arrested after his alcohol testing, reportedly asked “why he was being tested for alcohol and not controlled substances.” When, after the first test, his BAC registered at .111, the pilot “stated that the results must have been caused by the gum that he was chewing.”
However, the alcohol in chewing gum is polyol, a sweetener used in place of sugar, and not the ethanol necessary to produce alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic chewing gum, meanwhile, does not exist.
In a Brooklyn federal court last month, Murphy was charged with operating an air common carrier while under the influence of alcohol. He was released after posting a $50,000 bond.
If convicted, Murphy faces up to 15 years in prison.