Intoxicated British Airways 777 Pilot Removed From Flight

As much as there are aspects of British Airways that I don’t love, I’ve always had the utmost respect for the professionalism of their pilots. They have one of the best safety records in the industry, and I’ve always gotten the sense that their pilots take their jobs very seriously.

Of course one bad apple doesn’t reflect the rest of them, but there’s a disturbing story about Thursday’s British Airways flight from London Gatwick to Mauritius. The Boeing 777 was scheduled to operate BA2063, and ended up leaving over 2.5 hours late.

That’s because one of the two first officers on the flight — a 49 year old man from Harmondsworth — allegedly boarded intoxicated. British Airways has issued the following statement regarding the incident:

“We are taking this matter extremely seriously. We are sorry for the delay to our customers. The aircraft remained at the gate until an alternative third pilot joined the flight crew.”

Here’s what went down, according to The Sun:

Airline colleagues believing they could smell booze on him dialled 999 worried about the safety of up to 300 passengers and crew.

An airline source told The Sun: “Cops rushed onto the plane and headed straight for the cockpit.”

“The first officer was cuffed and led away”

I think it’s worth noting that the legal blood alcohol limit for pilots is extremely low (as it should be), so we can’t really assume he was “drunk,” in the sense that he was slurring his words and could barely walk straight. It’s certainly possible based on the fact that the crew raised concerns based on how he smelled and was acting, though it’s not a given. There’s a reason there are such strict regulations though, and it’s incredibly reckless for someone in charge of hundreds of lives to take any risks.

In addition to the fact that the pilot himself was so reckless, what I find equally disturbing is how long it took others to take note of this, as he made it all the way into the cockpit before anyone raised concerns. This seems to happen far too often. You’d think there would be plenty of points up until then where people might get the hint, like at the crew briefing, security, etc.

I imagine the pilot will be fired for an offense like this, and I hope he gets the help he needs.

Comments

  1. And help he needs, in regards to alcohol. Not sure whether they will also offer him a professional help, if so, I hope he accepts that. This may not be the only job he will go to drunk, even with a small amount of alc in his system.
    This may seem trivial to some social drinkers. However, there are people out there unable to function (walk, work, attend classes, etc.) without being under the influence. Even though they are aware about their job or personal/social responsibilities, their addiction takes the last out of them…

    Just my five cents. Have a lovely day otherwise 🙂

  2. They should find out if he had alcohol. If he did, he needs to pay every passenger directly or indirectly affected by the 2.5-hour delay. He can get help only then.

  3. Safety of passengers must always be top priority. However, in dealing with the consequences of a crew member’s behavior, we must all be cognizant that substance abuse is a disease of the mind, and must be treated as a disease.

  4. Better reported on View from the Wing which sets this is context of American, United , Air India etc. If you are going to rely on the Sun as a source – then it’s finally time to stop reading.

  5. CNN reports pretty much as what Ben copied from the ever so horrid Sun; maybe new information about the alcohol, as per Sussex police spokeswoman for CNN:

    “A 49-year-old man from Harmondsworth, West Drayton in Hillingdon, was arrested on suspicion of performing an aviation function when the level of alcohol was over the prescribed limit,” the spokeswoman said.

    ps: Lucky, otherwise I lover your blog!

  6. Ben, there is actually a blood alcohol level that is acceptable for pilots?! I’d assumed it would have to be zero??

  7. Airline pilots, taxi drivers, bus drivers, train drivers… … should all be required, by law, to take a breathalyser test when they report for work and, periodically, during their shift. In fact, why not fit all planes, cars and trucks with alcohol/drug detectors? It should be simple enough for technology to prevent an engine from starting, if the pilot/driver has been drugging/drinking. That would significantly decrease the carnage on the roads – thousands killed and injured every year.

    Just waiting for the first person (moron?) to protest that this would infringe his/her human rights….

  8. Wrong , there is no excuse for this — flying and booze don’t mix well !

    The captain failed to call police because pilots usually cover up each other —- especially a BAND OF BROTHERS which have been around for awhile ! COMRADESHIP they called it . Hell a pilot is also entitled to a glass of wine or two with his meals , tho I imagine this wasn’t the case in question !
    Back in the old days of 707’s , 727’s & DC8’s the Captain would be complacent and have the officer take his seat , not touch anything and doze off ! The cockpit door was locked to indiscreet eyes ! Period ! A stewardess reporting a pilot and put his career at risk
    wasn’t that stupid —- she knew better !

    But again such cases were extremely rare and far between !

    My concern was @ 2 1/2 hours to get another pilot , way too long at GTW !

  9. @Tullio Holešov is shut, has been for some time & the BA aircraft wasn’t there.

    Why was 2.5 hours too long to get another pilot?
    Are you party to their standby crew rostering?

    If not I suggest you shut your voluminous cakehole. Moron.

  10. To be fair, there were 3 pilots in the cockpit when, in many such cases, there would only be two.

    So there were still two sober pilots and if the third guy dozed off, I doubt that safety would be affected.

    I think is more about the zero tolerance policy towards alco then any actual risk.

  11. <> What FACT? He has not yet been found guilty. If found Not Guilty, you are in trouble.

    Some contributers are talking utter rubbish.
    FWIW, the aviation alcohol limit is a quarter of the drink/drive limit.

    You can’t have a zero limit because, fermentation in the intestines can produce ethanol (and other undesirable products ).
    I’m very happy to be flown by someone whose BAC does not exceed 20mg/100ml.

  12. @Basil So how do you explain the Australian zero limit for learner & probationary licence holders? Nevermind the other countries which list a 0% BAC level….

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