Yellowknife MD fined in airport rage case

A Yellowknife doctor has been fined $3,000 for telling a local airport staff member that he hoped his bag would blow up the plane.

Made bomb-related remark after being barred from Edmonton-bound flight

A Yellowknife doctor has been fined $3,000 for telling a local airport staff member that he hoped his bag would blow up the plane.

Dr. Richard Cunningham, 60, was handed the fine Friday in a Yellowknife courtroom, after he had pleaded guilty to falsely declaring to have explosives at the airport, which is contrary to aviation security regulations. The incident occurred in 2009.

In addition to the fine, Cunningham was sentenced to three months of probation, during which time he is not allowed to fly with a commercial airline for any reason other than a medical emergency.

According to an agreed-upon statement of facts, Cunningham was drunk when he arrived at the Yellowknife airport at 5 p.m. MT on Oct. 9, 2009, with the intent of boarding a First Air flight to Edmonton.

Arrogant and belligerent

In court, the Crown described Cunningham as being arrogant and belligerent, acting as though First Air was his own private airline.

Cunningham refused to present his boarding pass or identification to staff. After he tried unsuccessfully to board the flight, Cunningham then tried to leave the airport, according to the statement of facts.

A First Air employee followed him and asked again for his boarding card, this time so that his baggage could be identified and removed from the aircraft.

Cunningham swore at the employee and said, "I hope my bag blows up your plane," according to the statement of facts.

After being sentenced on Friday, Cunningham denied using those words, and claimed he had signed the agreed-upon statement of facts without reading it.

Convicted of impaired driving

Cunningham, whose 35-year medical career includes five years in the Northwest Territories, told the court that his drinking has never interfered with his work.

But the Crown attorney said Cunningham's alcohol consumption has gotten him into trouble before: he was convicted of impaired driving in August 2008, then he was caught driving while disqualified six months later.

A month after he was charged in the airport incident, Cunningham entered into an agreement with his employer, the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, in which he agreed not to consume any alcohol for three years.

Under that agreement, Cunningham has also agreed to take psychiatric counselling for anger management.