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US Judge Sides With Sacked American Airlines Pilot

Date: October 29, 2022

BY LUKAS SOUZA, Simple Flying

DeWitt Ingram, an American Airlines pilot of 21 years, lost his job in 2020 for declining to take a flawed drug test. As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration revoked his pilot license. A few weeks ago, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) judge ruled that Ingram's license was revoked illegally.

Pilot drug testing

Pilots are subject to random drug and alcohol testing from time to time. All American airlines that follow FAA regulations randomly test their employees for drugs and alcohol. Most employees can be tested at least once every three months, but pilots and air traffic controllers are subject to more frequent tests.

Pilot drug testing is outsourced to drug testing companies that will randomly notify pilots that they will be drug tested. This can happen at any point at the airport. For Ingram, this happened after landing in Miami in August 2020.

According to a statement prepared by Scott Mager, Ingram's attorney, the employee/notifier asked a flight attendant at the aircraft door for a pilot named David. The statement adds that Ingram told the notifier that his name was not David but that the two of them walked up the jet bridge and into the terminal.

Ingram refused to be tested by the notifier, and his drug test result was recorded as positive. As a result, American Airlines terminated Ingram's employment, and the FAA revoked his pilot license.

Three court cases

Ingram has pursued three different cases regarding the incidents. First, an NTSB judge ruled that the FAA took Ingram's license illegally. A judge allowed Ingram's lawsuit to proceed in the second case as he sought compensation. The third case that Ingram and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) are pursuing is a grievance against American Airlines.

In the first case, the FAA presented its evidence, and the APA's legal counsel Sue Edwards motioned to dismiss everything based on the lack of "credible factual evidence produced by the FAA." The FAA tried to prove that the employee had adequately notified Ingram of the test or that there was a refusal on his part. The judge quickly struck down the FAA's case.

In a message to union pilots, President Ed Sicher shared that the judge's decision was good for the union. He added,

“This fight will continue as APA shifts its focus to now assisting this pilot through representation in the pending wrongful termination grievance and by offering support in his civil court action. [Ingram] needs to be made whole for the loss of his earnings, the loss of his license, and the abuse he was administered.”

According to a statement from Scott Mager, Ingram's attorney, the day following the incident in Miami, Ingram scheduled multiple tests.

“The next day, Ingram awoke to several voice mail messages from American Airlines flight department, expressing their shock that he refused to take a drug and alcohol test... Ingram was grounded forever and all FAA public records of him ever having been a pilot were gone from the FAA Airmen Registry public website."

Because of Ingram's age, he will not be able to fly before his 65th birthday in January. In the grievance and civil suits, judges will decide whether Eulen America (the drug test provider) and American Airlines are liable for what happened.

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