The wise pilot knows there are very few absolutes in aviation. Sure basic tenets such as “only collide with things you intend to collide with (like runways)” and “don’t crash” are by default absolutes, but much beyond ones of that ilk, not many more. But there is one that can just about be guaranteed to be an absolute: every single person you know that has obtained a pilot certificate, you know they are a pilot.
You see, pilots by and large are a personality type that generally takes pride in their gravity defying skillset. A lot of pride! The old joke of “how do you know there’s a pilot at the party?” “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” is painfully true. And they can be a rowdy bunch too; knowledgeable in the rules, and even more knowledgeable in the loopholes to manage their existence within (or maybe say around) those rules. So when it comes time to regulate one of the hardest things to regulate, behavior, amongst this group, the regulators had to get creative. That behavior in this case is, of course, consumption of alcohol. And that regulation is 14CFR 91.17; the “Eight Hours Bottle to Throttle” rule.
§91.17 Alcohol or drugs.
(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft
(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;
(2) While under the influence of alcohol;
The American highways are surely known for their challenges with keeping drunk drivers off the road, but yet aviation, full of bravado as it is, seems to be far more remised of this problem; yes, it happens, but far less often. So why though is this regulation so effective in aviation? – Ego. The regulators have so perfectly pitted the persona of the pilot against itself it is practically comical. For if there is but one thing that the weary aviator looking to wet their whistle loves more than a drop of libation, it is to lament upon those present their prowess at being a pilot. For in that moment of flourish, to reveal upon the crowd (whether they care or not) this skill, they can satisfy their inner need for further intoxicating substance with a smooth boost of the ego. “No thanks, I’ll have a Coke. I’m flying in 8 hours; I’m a pilot!”
Agreed. Brilliant alignment of ego and incentive.
Jourdan Urbach Managing Partner Brandt & Co.
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