Decisions

CAT File No. P-1143-02
MoT File No. 5802-049532

CIVIL AVIATION TRIBUNAL

BETWEEN:

Harmon N. Ronning, Applicant

- and -

Minister of Transport, Respondent

LEGISLATION:
Aeronautics Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-2, ss 6.9, 7.1(1)
Air Regulations, C.R.C. 1978, c. 2, s. 409(a)
Personnel Licensing Handbook, Vol. 3, Part. III, ss 1.2, 1.3(b)

Medical certificate, Consumption of alcohol, Alcoholism


Review Determination
William C. Pearson, Q.C.


Decision: October 9, 1996

I amend the period of suspension from two years to 12 months and 18 days, under the Notice of Suspension dated September 29, 1995 and direct that the suspension shall terminate on November 17, 1996.

The Review Hearing on the above matter was held Wednesday, September 18, 1996 at 10:00 hours in Vancouver, British Columbia. This matter had been referred to the Tribunal for a decision dealing only with the sanctions to be imposed on the Applicant. All the facts recited were admitted by both parties and a Statement of Agreed Facts was filed.

Harmon N. Ronning was a Captain with Air Canada and on November 1, 1994, arrived at Heathrow Airport at 10:00 a.m. to fly an Air Canada Boeing 767 to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He and the First Officer commenced to do those things that Captains and First Officers do as crew members. While they were engaged in the cockpit checks, Captain Ronning was advised that one of the flight attendants would not fly because of the odour of alcohol on his breath. The Captain, who had not consumed alcohol since 2:00 a.m. (pursuant to paragraph 409(a) of the Air Regulations), volunteered for a blood and urine test to demonstrate his sobriety. The blood sample test showed .128 milligrams of alcohol per decilitre (well over the 8 milligrams in 100 milligrams motorists have regretted as they lost their driving privileges). The eight hours abstention had not been enough to allow his body to eliminate the alcohol.

On November 17, 1994, the Minister suspended the Applicant's Medical Certificate under paragraph 7.1(1)(a) of the Aeronautics Act, pursuant to section 1.2 and paragraph 1.3(b) of the Personnel Licensing Handbook. Captain Ronning was suffering from the disease of alcoholism.

During the first week of November 1994, Captain Ronning commenced a program of controlling his disease. He was determined and successful. He is now classified as a recovering alcoholic, who has abstained from alcohol since then (the first week of November 1994).

The subject of this application relates to a two-year suspension of Captain Ronning's Airline Transport Licence issued on September 29, 1995, pursuant to section 6.9 of the Aeronautics Act. This application requests that the time under the medical suspension be counted in dealing with the two-year suspension imposed by the Minister for breach of paragraph 409(b) of the Air Regulations commencing on October 29, 1995, and to run until October 27, 1997.

In sentencing one must be conscious of certain principles to be achieved. These are deterring of the wrongdoer and others, reforming the offender and protecting the public. It must be severe enough to deter both the offender and others liable to offend, and yet reasonable enough to enjoin other alcoholics to take control of the disease.

In my opinion, confirmed by the Minister, a two-year suspension for a breach of paragraph 409(b) of the Air Regulations is an adequate sentence. In the circumstances, the effect on Captain Ronning is an economic one of two years without salary, which is a severe punishment. It matters not the grounds for the suspension.

Under subsection 6.9(8) of the Aeronautics Act, the Tribunal member may confirm the Minister's suspension or may substitute the Tribunal member's decision for that of the Minister.

In this application, the Applicant requests that I reduce the suspension to 12 months and 18 days which results in the expiry of the suspension on November 17, 1996 (a total time of two years).

After reviewing Captain Ronning's record and the evidence agreed to, in regard to Captain Ronning's determination to take control of his disease and abstain from alcohol, I have concluded that such effort deserves support. Accordingly, I amend the period of suspension from two years to 12 months and 18 days, under the Notice of Suspension dated September 29, 1995 and direct that the suspension shall terminate on November 17, 1996.

I should like to thank counsel for their able contribution to the hearing, and my enlightenment.

William C. Pearson, Q.C.
Member
Civil Aviation Tribunal