March 8, 1990: An intoxicated three-man crew, including Flight Engineer
Joseph Balzer, fly a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 with 91 passengers aboard
from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
July 25, 1990: All three pilots stand trial for flying a commercial airliner while
under the influence of alcohol; all three are convicted and sent to federal prison.
July 26, 1990 - present: Joe Balzer fights for redemption and to regain all that he
has lost. This is his story.
Since he was a young boy, Joe Balzer dreamed of flying. He pursued his goal
with a vigorous passion and earned his pilot licenses, piling up hours of flight
time with a wide variety of planes and jets with one over arching goal: to one day
fly for a major airline. But Joe had a problem. He was an alcoholic and refused to
admit to himself that he had a problem.
His alcoholism caught up with him in March 1990, when Joe was arrested with
two other pilots for flying a commercial airliner while under the influence of
alcohol. His world began crumbling around him and his new marriage faced the
ultimate test. He lost his promising career and his dignity. Every major media
outlet, including , The New York Times, Newsweek, and Time Magazine,
and covered the shocking story for the stunned American flying public.
The trial that followed drained Joe's life's savings and federal prison nearly broke him.
Flying Drunk is Joe's bittersweet and thoroughly chilling memoir of his twisted journey
to a Federal courtroom, his time in the notorious Federal penitentiary system in
Atlanta, and his struggle to recapture all that he held dear.
Today, Joe is a recovering alcoholic, celebrating more than nineteen years of
sobriety. The long road back from perdition led him to American Airlines, where
good people and a great organization recognized a talented pilot who had
cleaned up his act and was ready to fly again, safely.
Flying Drunk is an incredible journey of the human spirit, from childhood to
hell, and back again. Everyone should read and heed its message of hope and
redemption. Nobody who does will ever forget it.