New Mexico Annexes Entirety of U.S. Airspace

|

A New Mexico man gets tanked aboard a commercial domestic flight, lands, and proceeds to drive his truck into a family of six. He kills himself and five of them. In response, the state's specially appointed "drunken driving task force" thinks up a new way to encourage responsible boozing: blame the skies.

Starting last month, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department issued cease and desist letters to US Airways and two other airlines that do not hold liquor licenses in the state, Frontier and Northwest.

In response, all three have halted alcohol sales on flights to and from New Mexico, and both US Airways and Northwest have applied for a state liquor license.

"We're operating under the assumption that we are in compliance with the F.A.A. and interstate commerce laws," said Joe Hodas, a Frontier spokesman. "Obtaining liquor licenses in all of the states where we fly could be cumbersome and expensive. We've never received a request like this before."

Via Kip Esquire.

NEXT: Let Slip the Blogs of War

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In response, all three have halted alcohol sales on flights to and from New Mexico, and both US Airways and Northwest have applied for a state liquor license, and both US Airways and Northwest have applied for a state liquor license.

    Maybe the state is right. Just reading this article is giving me double vision.

  2. What about flights that pass over New Mexico? Will they have to suspend alcohol service while in NM airspace? Or Flights that have New Mexico residents on board?

  3. And a state liquor license would have prevented this tragedy how?

  4. New Mexico has a long, pathetic history of drunk driving problems and state gov’t inability to deal with them in an intelligent, effective way.

    I’m not sure the first line of the story – “The car wreck on Nov. 11 was as gruesome as any New Mexico had ever seen” – does justice to that history. Maybe they forgot about Gordon House, who claimed the head-on collision in which he killed a mother and her three young daughters who were going caroling on Christmas Eve, 1992 was caused by his migraine headache, not the 8+ beers he had drank. He was finally convicted and sent to prison after multiple mistrials.

  5. Hmmmm…this sounds like a commerce clause-type issue. In Marquette vs. First Omaha Service Corp., the Supreme Court ruled that interest rates that were valid in South Dakota (i.e. the maximum amount allowed by anti-usury laws) were also valid for the rest of the US, as long as the credit card issuer (such as Citibank) were located in South Dakota. I think this decision rested on commerce-clause arguments (sometimes the commerce clause is used for pro-liberty causes).

    Anyway, this whole liquor license thing seems similar on its face to me…I’m not a lawyer, though, and I’m sure there have been a lot of cases involving alcohol and state lines. But, it seems like if a company has a valid liquor license in, say, Minneosta (where Northwest is headquartered), that liquor license should be valid in all other states.

  6. Given that liquor licenses in many states are issued to premises rather than owners, an airline might end up ponying up a license fee for each aircraft in its fleet. There must be state legislators across the country kicking themselves for not seeing this cash cow first.

  7. Christopher,

    Not quite as cut-and-dried as that, since the XXI amendment states:

    Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

  8. Southwest is the dominant carrier from Albuquerque’s airport, and they aren’t mentioned, so perhaps thay haven’t found it too cumbersome to obtain a liqour license, which, of course, does not speak to this enforcement being effective in removing dangerous drunks from the road.

    I’ve read that this drunk in particular was so intoxicated tht he was trying to get off the plane at 30,000 feet, and U.S. Airways personnel continued to serve him (which strikes me as doubtful), so the airline might have a pretty large liability problem in regards to these fatalities. In another famous drunk driving lawsuit in recent New Mexico history, a drunken Bureau of Indian Affairs employee with a history of DUI killed four people on the interstate with his government issued pickup truck, and I think the Federal Government ended up paying out about 10 million to the surviving families.

  9. If I lived in or traveled through or even just passed by NM, I’m sure I’d feel the need to drink heavily also…a NM state of mind

  10. FAR Part 91.17 (b) states that “no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a person who appears to be intoxicated or who demonstrates by manner or physical indications that the individual is under the influence of drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in that aircraft.” In other words, if the guy was drunk before he got on the plane, they were allowed to kick him off until he sobered up.

    I also thought that flight attendants, like other alcohol servers (like the kind you find at catered events), were required to refuse to serve customers who appeared intoxicated. But it appears that this is not so. (And I’ve understand that passengers in first and business class get complimentary alcoholic drinks. This does not seem wise.)

    In any event, it is damn clear that airplanes in the air are subject to Federal, not state jurisdiction. (Kip got it right; when it comes to civil aviation, Federal laws preempt all state laws.) New Mexico can cram it.

  11. (And I’ve understand that passengers in first and business class get complimentary alcoholic drinks. This does not seem wise.)

    As a frequent passenger in those classes, I can say this:

    SCREW OFF! Leave my free booze alone.

    New Mexico can cram it.

    Not before their cash grab!

  12. You can argue that state liquor licenses are a scam and should be revoked, but an airline is a much, much bigger operation than a restaurant chain. Even a single passenger plane is a much bigger investment than a single restaurant or tavern outlet. Ergo: tiny violin on the airlines economic hardship argument.

    Maybe airlines actually have the clout to make state liquor license processes fairer and more efficient, which is one more reason they should be included in the game.

    And as far as taverns being responsible for their drunken customers:

    the dram shop laws are pretty old. if it is nannystatism, then it is a form of nanntstatism with an ancient vintage, at least.

  13. He might have stopped off at one of the airport bars and drank a few after he got off the plane. But the state has already extorted money out of them.

    I blame the parking lot attendants for allowing him to leave the parking lot when he was obviously incapable of driving.

  14. Sounds like New Mexico is trying to treat airlines like train lines.

    Back in the olden days, when a passenger train was passing through a State they had to abide by the laws of that State. If there was a one drink per customer at a time limit then that is what you got at the bar. If it was a dry State then the bar was closed.

    However, I seem to recall some recent decision that the plane had to abide by the rules of where it took off from, but I am a little fuzzy on that.

    Don’t forget, Pint Night at Bailey’s near Reagan National today!

  15. David- I know you were employing a little reductio ad abusurdim by asking if planes flying over NM would have to stop serving drinks, but something similar has happened. Kansas used to insist that airlines not serve drinks over Kansas airspace. The airlines actually complied.

  16. The airlines actually complied.

    > Most corporations are spineless.

  17. So, would that state’s National Guard detachment need to scramble jets to enforce the no-drinking-in-our-airspace rule?

  18. Perhaps a few subtle threats to stop service to Albuquerque (and some campaign cash, no doubt) will provide clarity to the state’s legislators, and cause them to tighten the regulatory leash a bit.

    The interaction between the “dormant” Commerce Clause and the 21st Amendment is a very difficult issue, but the Supreme Court has recently been more inclined to favor the Commerce Clause where the two conflict, as in the recent Internet wine sales case. Not that the airline situation is factually analogous, but I can see the Supremes clearly favoring the airlines on this one, given how confusing and burdensome such a web of state regulations would be on the airlines.

  19. What happens as the plane passes over dry counties in Texas? Is the flight attendant expected to look out the window before serving?

  20. “The horrific nature of this crash is unequaled by anything I’ve experienced in my career,” he said. “We have to get the airlines to change their cultural and social attitudes about serving alcohol.”

    It is the airlines fault, it is the car manfacturers fault for not having mandatory ignition interlock devices, it is the bars fault for over-serving, it is the liquor shops fault for having drive through windows, and on and on it goes in the Land of Enchantment looking for the magic answer.

    pssst…New Mexico look at how your schools rate…drop out much?

  21. This offender was a recent transplant to NM, from Colorado, if I remember correctly.

  22. This is a state where cohabitation is illegal.

  23. “…and on and on it goes in the Land of Enchantment looking for the magic answer”

    My favorite story like this from New Mexico was the guy who lost a shitload of money at a casino run by one of the pueblos there (don’t remember which one, but it wasn’t far from Albuquerque – Sandia…? Acoma…?), so he tried to sue the casino/pueblo for not cutting him off, and a bank that had an ATM at the casino for making his money too accessible to him.

  24. Hell, when Leonard Tose, trucking magnate and owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, lost his fortune, including, eventually, his football team, at the casinos in Atlantic City, he tried to sue the gambling dens for plying him with liqour as he tossed it all away. He lost. Again.

  25. This is a state where cohabitation is illegal.

    So I guess that rules out joining the Mile High Club over N.M., also.

  26. You can argue that state liquor licenses are a scam and should be revoked, but an airline is a much, much bigger operation than a restaurant chain. … Ergo: tiny violin on the airlines economic hardship argument.

    On the size of airlines vs. restaurants, I call bullshit. The largest airline fleet is that of American Airlines with 685 planes. Darden Restaurants, owner of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, has over double that number in restaurant locations. I chose Darden’s as opposed to other larger chains like McDonalds because all Darden Restaurants are corporate owned (not franchised) and most serve alcohol.

  27. “The airlines actually complied.”

    But they also took it to court and eventually won.

    Anyone in Kansas during that time can name the showboating lawman who was behind this silliness: Vern Miller. (Not to be confused with 30s gangster Verne Miller.)

  28. On the size of airlines vs. restaurants, I call bullshit.

    “On January 24, 2007, Frontier [the one complaining here] was designated as a major carrier by the United States Department of Transportation.”

    Source: wikipedia

    What does that mean exactly?

    “Major carrier or Major Airline is a designation given by the United States Department of Transportation to U.S.-based airlines that post more than $1 billion in revenue during a fiscal year.”

    That may not be bigger than Mickey Deez or the Ded Bobster, but still: tiny violin.

  29. Gee, couldn’t New Mexico just require that airliners have talking deodorizer cakes in their urinals if they fly over the state?

  30. Do they also have to stop serving vodka on Mir when it passes over NM? Is there any vertical limit to a state’s jurisdiction?

    If not, entire galaxies fall under the authority of RI’s legislature. A scary thought indeed.

  31. I guess they could simply blame the drunk driver. That would be wrong of course because he has very little money compaired to the airline.

  32. Major carrier or Major Airline is a designation given by the United States Department of Transportation to U.S.-based airlines that post more than $1 billion in revenue during a fiscal year.

    Revenue != Profit

    And so what if they are turning a billion dollars of profit a day, does that give New Mexico the right to claim providence over Arizona’s skies? Regardless of how you feel about state liquor licenses, one state cannot should not be able to tell a business from another state(US Airways is from Arizona, Frontier is from Colorado and Northwest is from Minnesota) how to operate in a third state(any airspace other than New Mexico’s).

    If Darden restaurants sets up shop in a dry county, then they cannot serve beer in that county only.

    Now, let’s review the specifics of the incident. It is a one hour flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque. He may have been drunk when he boarded the flight but it is doubtful that the stewardesses would serve him enough to become drunk. Even though business/first class drinks are free, they are not exactly free-flowing. Airline profits remember.

    Who’s to say he didn’t drink any alcohol after disembarking the plane?

    To quote a local article from the day after the accident:

    A beer container found in Papst’s truck and the smell of alcohol first alerted investigators to the possibility alcohol was involved, the sheriff said.

    From an article a few days later we get the truth of the matter:

    Little is known so far about where Papst obtained the alcohol that fatally clouded his judgment. Passengers on US Airways Flight 206 from Phoenix say flight attendants served him two single-serving containers of Jack Daniels whiskey.

    The flight was on time for the scheduled 5:13 p.m. arrival at Albuquerque International Sunport, an airline spokesman said. Passengers said Papst was among the last passengers served before turbulence put an end to beverage service.

    When sheriff’s investigators searched the wreckage of Papst’s 5,120-pound 2005 Dodge pickup, they found three cans of beer and a plastic ring that once held a six-pack.

    The drinks Papst was known to have consumed in his final hours dosn’t begin to account for the amount of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash. A person of Papst’s build, about 170 pounds, would typically have an extremely high blood-alcohol content of 0.265 if he drank 12 drinks in one hour, according to a widely circulated chart based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Blood tests found that 0.32 percent of the liquid in Papst’s veins after the crash was ethyl alcohol.

    Airport shuttle personnel in Albuquerque don’t recall seeing Papst after he disembarked from Flight 206 in the hours before the crash.

    “He might have parked directly at the airport,”[and then proceeded to drink elsewhere in the hours preceding the crash] Sunport Shuttle office manager Mary Long suggested.

    Got that? His plane landed at 5:13PM, his drunk ass plowed into the family at 8:05PM and he would have had to drink 12+ beers/shots in the preceding hour to register a .32 BAC. The airline had jack all to do with his drunkenness but is a convenient scapegoat for the stupidity of a single man. Rather than blaming the man for getting drunk off his ass and plowing his truck into a van full of kids the state of New Mexico is blaming the airline that served him two drinks, four hours prior to the incident.

  33. I guess they could simply blame the drunk driver. That would be wrong of course because he has very little money compaired to the airline.

    You have the victim collect from whoever can compensate, and whoever pays can squeeze indemnity out of the driver and the barkeep and the parking lot attendant and whoever else was most directly involved.

  34. Crimethink,

    Wasn’t it the Dune universe where the Imperial Duchies were defined by a certain number of degrees of space defined from Earth?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.