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Pilot Faces $1M Fine on Alcohol Charge

The Anchorage Daily News reported on a smuggling case last week that wouldn’t make much sense in the lower 48. First of all, it’s hard to explain to those not from our state just how important air travel is – there’s no other way to get from here to there in lots of Alaska. It’s boat or plane, with the only real choice being a small aircraft. Second though, it seems extremely odd to them that alcohol smuggling is still a “thing” here.

After two days of testimony, 70-year-old pilot, Ken Jouppi, was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge of transporting alcohol into a community that has banned booze. The alcohol wasn’t his, according to testimony. But Jouppi knew it was on the plane and ignored the situation. How much? About seven gallons in total, consisting of Budweiser and Bud Light. The trip was to Beaver, Alaska, a dry village.

The possible jail time faced on a misdemeanor charge isn’t that much. The man convicted of actually having the beer with him got three days. The real penalty here is the fine, and Jouppi (and his company, KenAir) will be tapped for anywhere from $200,000 up to a million.

The original arrest stemmed from a bootlegging investigation against KenAir, so it seems like there may have been more going on that just this case. It would be an attractive way to increase business, not by smuggling directly, but merely by turning a blind eye to whatever passengers happened to carry on board the plane. In the larger scheme of things, this case should serve as a warning to other pilots who may be thinking about avoiding the law or not finding out what gets transported on their planes.

Meanwhile, our friends in the lower 48 can continue to wonder at our outpost in the Great North – at just how different things really are here.


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