A British Airways first officer onboard London Gatwick to Mauritius was pulled out of the cockpit on Thursday night prior to departure.
Cabin crew had dialed ‘999’ for assistance after smelling alcohol on the 49 year old pilot.
“Cops rushed onto the plane and headed straight for the cockpit.
“The first officer was cuffed and led away.
“A number of passengers were open-mouthed.
The airline found a replacement pilot. They departed about 2 and a half hours late and made up around 40 minutes of that in the air. Everyone was safe. Although it’s striking that cabin crew smelled the alcohol and reported it, while the captain and the other first officer — who would have gone through preflight checks with the man — said nothing.
Standards for pilot blood alcohol are far more stringent than for someone driving a car. In the U.S. the standard is “eight hours bottle to throttle” and a blood alcohol limit of .04. Some countries have 12 hour rules and any trace of alcohol being impermissible.
Of course this is hardly the first time we’ve heard about pilots trying to fly after drinking. There was the American co-pilot who wasn’t fit to fly and the two United pilots on the same flight. There was the 737 captain last year who blew a .24. And the Indonesian pilot who couldn’t balance himself so airport security helped him walk instead of stopping him. Thirty Air India pilots have reportedly blown positive in a 3 year period.
There was even a Denzel Washington movie about this.
When something like this happens it is news, in part because it is rare. On the other hand it’s very serious and one of the under-reported issues with airline and safety culture is that there’s little room for a pilot to raise their hand and get help with a problem because doing so jeopardizes their position. As a result they hide it. Alcoholics are often highly functional, until they’re not.
(HT: One Mile at a Time)