Spirit Airlines pilot’s suspected overdose draws national attention

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Their deaths could be drug related.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the medical certifications of the deceased Spirit Airlines pilot from Centerville who died of a likely drug overdose were up-to-date but have not said why the agency’s publicly-available database used by crash investigators suggests he was unable to fly any aircraft in the United States.

The four children of Brian Halye, a pilot, and Courtney Halye found the couple dead in the bedroom of their Centerville home Thursday in Montgomery County Coroner’s Office Director Ken Betz called a “probable accidental drug overdose.”

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Betz said examinations on the couple have been completed, but a final determination on the cause and manner will take six weeks until toxicology reports are completed. Since Jan. 1, Montgomery County has had 155 accidental drug overdoses, Betz said.

The case attracted national media attention Friday.

Officer John Davis, Centerville Police spokesman, said, “I think maybe just where it occurred, and what occurred, has drawn some attention to that. I know that the speculation as to Mr. Halye’s employment has also drawn attention to it. That’s not the focus of our investigation at this time.”

Investigators have not given any indication the Spirit Airlines pilot used drugs prior to his death. Brian Halye’s last flight for the company before his death was March 10, a Spirit Airlines spokesman said.

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Questions remain about why a federal database did not show up-to-date information on Brian Halye.

Aviation safety expert Shawn Pruchnicki of Ohio State University told the Dayton Daily News the database is one of the tools used by the National Transportation Safety Board during investigations of air disasters.

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The FAA told the Dayton Daily News on Thursday that Brian Halye had a valid first-class medical certificate allowing him to fly. But the agency could not definitively answer why the public database of airmen indicated the certificate expired more than four years ago.

The Dayton Daily News has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request for Brian Halye’s medical certificates.

Pilots must hold valid medical certificates in order to fly. The Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which he held, requires a first-class medical certificate, which must be updated every 12 months for a pilot under the age of 40. Brian Halye was 36.

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The FAA database lists Brian Halye’s medical certificate date as September, 2011, more than five years ago. No class of pilot is allowed to go that long without a medical exam. Asked Thursday to double check, Cory said Brian Halye’s certificate was up-to-date, with it due to expire this fall.

“I’m not sure why the online database does not have that information,” Cory said in an email to the Dayton Daily News on Thursday. “The system could be in the process of update.”

The database is updated each federal working day at midnight, according to the FAA’s website.

Cory said she asked another FAA employee on Thursday to check Brian Halye’s medical certification. The employee, a medical doctor, Cory said, “went into the airman’s file and looked it up.”

“The online database is one of many that we have,” she said Friday. “It is a very basic listing of name and certificate. It is separate from an in-depth medical file. It is not the only database we have.”

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Pruchnicki, a lecturer at OSU’s Center for Aviation Studies and a pharmacist, said he’s never had a problem seeing his medical certifications in the airmen database.

“I’ve always been able to pull up my own medicals to see,” said Pruchnicki, a former Comair pilot, after hearing about the FAA’s response to the newspaper.

The newspaper has asked Spirit Airlines if it is conducting an internal investigation into Brian Halye’s death. The airline did not respond at time of publication.

Martin Rottler, also an OSU lecturer, said he did not expect “anything nefarious” was going on with the FAA’s records.

“They have several hundred pilot records that are in there,” Rottler said. “The carriers and the FAA have better records and far greater records than what you’ll find on the FAA database.”

Brian Halye had two children from a previous marriage, as did Courtney Halye. Her former husband, Jacob Castor, died in August 2007 from an accidental drug overdose, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Two of the children attend Centerville schools. The other two attend Spring Valley Academy.

Spring Valley released a statement Friday that read in part: ” … we are doing all we can to provide all appropriate support for them and all their classmates who are affected by this heartbreaking loss. As a Christian community we take comfort in the promise of ultimate healing, restoration, and resurrection but at the moment we are deeply grieving with our students and their families.”