Florida pilot pleads guilty to drunkenly flying Boeing 747 while working for military

A plane similar to the Boeing 747 flown by Daniel R. Criss.
A plane similar to the Boeing 747 flown by Daniel R. Criss. AFP/Getty Images File

A former Defense Department contractor from Florida pleaded guilty Tuesday to drunkenly piloting a Boeing 747 while it was carrying cargo and a flight crew from Korea to Japan two years ago, authorities said.

Daniel R. Criss, 61, pleaded guilty in an Orlando federal court to one count of operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol in federal court, after prosecutors alleged the Brevard County pilot had a blood alcohol level that exceeded the limit allowed under law.

The July 14, 2015, flight Criss piloted while drunk involved a Boeing 747 aircraft carrying cargo and a flight crew from Osan Air Base, South Korea to Anchorage, Alaska, and stopping in Yokota Air Base, Japan. In his plea, Criss, who was working for subcontractor Kalitta Air, said that he was already intoxicated when he arrived at the air base around 10 a.m. that morning, and his co-pilots on the flight noticed that Criss struggled to write down the air traffic control clearance, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

Criss told his concerned colleagues that he had slept poorly, and remained in control of the aircraft during the first leg of its flight, the statement said. When the aircraft began to descend on Yokota Air Base, however, Criss missed several radio calls, incorrectly ran through the landing checklist and “lost situational awareness,” according to the DOJ statement. After landing the plane, Criss said in his plea that he taxied the plane to the runway faster than normal and fell asleep after the aircraft stopped at the ramp.

Criss’ co-pilots called for medical help around 2 p.m., believing that he was having an emergency. When medical staff arrived and tested Criss, they found he had a blood alcohol level in excess of the federal limit, estimating it was between 0.146 percent and 0.152 percent when he was piloting the plane.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations investigated the case, and Criss was charged in February.