Boeing 737 Captain Found Passed Out in Cockpit, Blows a .24

A Canadian Boeing 737 pilot for Sunwing Airlines was found passed out in the cockpit yesterday morning. Gate and flight crew reported “he was behaving strangely.” His reported blood alcohol level was .24.

“They found him slumped over in the seat. He was the captain,” Calgary Sgt. Paul Stacey told a news conference.

The pilot was escorted from the plane and has been charged with having care and control of an aircraft while being impaired, as well as having a blood-alcohol level exceeding .08 while in care and control of an aircraft.

Stacey said police allege the suspect had three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

I’m always skeptical of details reported in the media about aviation-related incidents. Here there’s reporting of the route that the flight was supposed to be taking for the day:

Police said the pilot boarded the Boeing 737 with 99 passengers and six crew members in Calgary, Alberta for a flight that was scheduled to make stops in Regina, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico.

Sunwing flies Boeing 737-800s, so far so good.

However it’s not clear to me that Sunwing flies between Regina and Winnipeg. Air Canada and WestJet do operate regional service (Dash-8s) between Regina and Winnipeg. There is, however, Regina – Cancun service on Saturdays — a 10:15 a.m. flight.

In fact, the flight in question was Sunwing WG595 from Calgary to Regina to Cancun (no stop in Winnipeg ‘before continuing on to Cancun’.

The flight took off from Calgary with a new captain 1 hour 53 minutes late and eventually did make it to Cancun almost 3 hours behind schedule.

Notably, we’ve heard of several incidents of pilots showing up drunk — like this week’s stumbling and slurring Indonesian pilot, two United pilots for the same flight out of Glasgow in August, and an American co-pilot in March — there was even a Denzel Washington movie about this.

However, outside of Denzel, in these incidents the pilots didn’t actually manage to fly. They were caught. Safety procedures are pretty good, and this is one case where ‘see something say something’ works. But that’s because it’s crew seeing something, rather than just passengers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Inquiring minds want to know if the Sunwing copilot had a blood alcohol content above or below the pilot super drunk 0.24 BAC.

  2. .08 is the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle, commercial drivers are at a much lower level (.02-.04) and pilots are at 0. This should raise concern in everyone who flies.

  3. @MaryAnn: C’mon please don’t help make people stupider with your pseudo-knowledge. That’s my biggest problem with the internet . Pilot are not “at zero.”
    Now, kick back and have a few shots while getting angry at me for snapping back. I promise the butt-hurt will go away. I’d love to see your citation to “zero” as the maximum level of BAC.

    FAR 121.458
    FAR 91.17

  4. Gary, this is why you should edit comments. This guy is gonna try to act like he’s a genius referencing FAA relations while talking about Canadian aviation. And what’s his point anyway? Is he advocating for drunk driving and drunk flying? This is why America sucks

  5. Limit from FAA for pilots is under .04. Also, can’t have consumed alcohol within 8-12 hours before flight, depending on airline. FAA regulation is 8 hours before flight.

  6. @Chris:
    FAR’s apply to aircraft flying through US airspace. Hint: That’s how you get to Mexico from Canada by air.
    You can look up Canadian regulations when you thaw out your brain, since you fail to cite to them.
    I’m not going to engage in gertruding to your speculations.
    As to America, you are free to think it sucks. You are free to express your unsupported speculation regarding my intentions, and you are obviously free to make up questions and then answer them.
    As to your statement: “This guy is gonna try to act like he’s a genius, ” I might think something about you too…..but I don’t .

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