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Published November 19, 2013, 08:43 PM

Airline pilot Lyle Prouse speaks at UND's safety presentation

Airline pilot Lyle Prouse, arrested in Fargo in 1990 for being drunk before flying an airline, has found redemption. He lost his wings, worked to re-earn them and has retired as a 747 captain. He'll speak at UND's Chester Fritz at 7 p.m.

Airline pilot Lyle Prouse, arrested in Fargo in 1990 for being drunk before flying an airline, has found redemption. He lost his wings, worked to re-earn them and has retired as a 747 captain. He'll speak at UND's Chester Fritz at 7 p.m.

Each year, the University of North Dakota's John D. Odegard School hosts a "safety presentation" that is open to the public. This Tuesday, Nov. 19, Captain Lyle Prouse will speak about his battle with alcoholism and the incidents behind the infamous Northwest Flight 650, which originated from Fargo, N.D., on March 7, 1990.

After consuming alcohol in a Fargo bar, Prouse was part of a crew that flew Northwest Flight 650 from Fargo to Minneapolis. An anonymous tip from a patron at the Fargo bar led to Prouse's conviction for flying under the influence of alcohol. Prouse would eventually receive a second chance in commercial aviation, re-earn his "wings" and retire as a full-fledged airline captain of a 747.

Even though this presentation has an aviation theme, the story relevant to all. Prouse gives a highly motivating, inspiring and personal speech about his life, alcoholism and the events surrounding Northwest Flight 650.

Three years ago, Norman Lyle Prouse downed about a dozen rum and colas and took off in a Northwest Airlines jetliner, drunk at the controls.

This month, after a prison term and treatment for alcoholism, the former airline captain is returning to Northwest as a pilot instructor on the ground, in what he hopes will be a first step toward flying again.

"I left under some pretty horrible circumstances, and I would like to go back under different circumstances," Mr. Prouse, 55, said in an interview on Tuesday. "It's not a personal pride or ego thing. It's important for me, I think, to help illustrate what recovery from alcoholism is about."

Mr. Prouse's nearly 22-year career as a Northwest pilot came to a halt on March 8, 1990. After a night of heavy drinking, he flew a Boeing 727 with 58 passengers from Fargo, N.D., to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The plane landed smoothly, but the authorities had been alerted by a bar patron who had seen the crew drinking. The three pilots were ordered to undergo sobriety tests, and all showed blood-alcohol levels higher than the Federal limit of .04 percent. Mr. Prouse's was the highest, at .13 percent; the first officer, Robert Kirchner, showed .06 percent, and the flight engineer, Joseph Balzer, showed .08 percent.

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