A JetBlue pilot who finished up a 151-passenger flight from Orlando, Florida, to JFK last year with a breath-alcohol level that was allegedly higher than legal limits was charged with flying under the influence in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday.
Dennis Thomas Murphy was red in the face and chewing gum rapidly when he was picked out for a random test after the flight, and after the company subjected him to a Breathalyzer test with a reading of .111 he complained it was wrong, the government said.
“Murphy stated that the results must have been caused by the gum that he was chewing,” according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
Murphy, 44, of Ramsey, New Jersey, who had been hired Jan. 7, 2015, was suspended by JetBlue immediately after the tests that followed his April 21, 2015, flight. He was charged last week, and released on $50,000 bail after a brief court appearance. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
A blood-alcohol reading of .10 indicates a person is under the influence, the government said, and Murphy had “breath alcohol” readings of .111 and .091 in two tests.
The government said last April 21 Murphy piloted a 111-passenger JetBlue flight from JFK to Orlando earlier in the day, and then was a “monitoring” pilot on the return flight who handled controls when the flying pilot went on bathroom breaks.
His co-pilot on both legs of the trip said he “observed Murphy drinking an unknown beverage from a cup” before and during both flights. Murphy, who did not enter a plea, declined to comment on what was in the cup as he left court.
“JetBlue has a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy,” the company said in a statement. “Following last year’s incident, the crew member was removed from duty and is no longer employed at JetBlue.”