This piece is based on a post by Brian Abraham
Few pilots are better qualified to discuss the dangers of alcohol than Lyle Prouse, the Northwest Airlines captain whose fall from grace made national headlines 11 years ago.
On March 8, 1990, Prouse and the other two members of his Boeing 727 flight crew were arrested after completing a trip from Fargo, N.D., to Minneapolis. Hours earlier they’d been drinking heavily at a bar and a witness had tipped the FAA. The three pilots were the first to be charged under a 1986 law that criminalized operating a “common carrier under the influence of drugs or alcohol”. The day after his arrest, Prouse entered a month-long alcohol abuse program. He has been sober ever since.
However, other aspects of his life worsened. He lost his job and then all his money. The FAA revoked his medical and pilot certificates. And then he was convicted and sent to Atlanta’s federal prison camp. Prouse served 14 months of a 16-month sentence.
Although he despaired, the former Marine A4E pilot and Vietnam combat veteran was determined to return to the cockpit. Starting with the Private Pilot license, Prouse earned his qualifications back one by one. Although he never expected to, Prouse ultimately worked his way back into the cockpit, and retired from Northwest in 1998 as a Boeing 747 captain.
Prouse’s journey came full circle on January 20, 2001, when he was included in the list of 140 Americans to receive presidential pardons from the outgoing Clinton administration; 36 others had their prison sentences commuted. With his pardon, Prouse regains rights many of us take for granted: the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to run for public office, and most importantly to the avid outdoorsman, the right to own firearms.
Prouse still flies, and owns a 1975 Piper Warrior. He’s an active participant in the Angel Flight program, and often is invited to speak to alcohol rehabilitation and other groups. “Some guys hate me forever, since the incident threw a wet blanket on some of the partying, but many more say ‘I saw what happened to you, and it made me take a look at myself and get help,”‘ he says. “Alcoholism is a tough, tough disease, and it’s important to dispel the misconceptions about it and treat it before it’s too late.”
You can read the complete account of Lyle Prouse’ autobiographical account of his tryst with law and his redemption against alcoholism in his book, “Final Approach“, by ordering the book online at http://lyleprouse.com/
Permission of Captain Lyle Prouse to use his posts on an aviation forum for the purpose of this blog is gratefully acknowledged.
Grateful thanks to Brian Abraham for introducing me to the story of Lyle Prouse, and to Rob, Forum Administrator, for consenting to use the material on their forum for the larger public good for information and knowledge dissemination.
Proud of this veteran!