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.