Passengers flying to Philadelphia from Manchester yesterday on American Airlines found their flight promptly canceled, as one of the pilots on board was grounded on suspicion of being drunk.
American Airlines has been quick to handle the situation, handing the pilot over to local police and rebooking passengers onto other flights. They have stressed to the media that safety is their highest priority.
“The employee was detained and the flight, AA735 to Philadelphia, has been canceled, We have rebooked (passengers) on alternative flights.” – Airline Statement
What happened to the pilot?
Pilots drinking on the job is no joke, and airlines take any rumors or suspicions very seriously. For example, if a passenger made a joke near the flight crew that for whatever reason they might have had a drink or two (e.g. when pilots were low paid in the 1980s they might bury their woes with drink) then captain is encouraged to ask an official at the airport for a full breathalyzer test of themselves and their first officer. This is to remove as suspicions (even as a joke) and ensure they are legally allowed to fly.
In this scenario, we are not sure why the pilot was suspected of being drunk, but it was enough for them to be barred from flying, grounded and charged by the local Manchester police for performing an aviation function whilst intoxicated.
“Officers attended and a 62-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of performing an aviation function when over the prescribed limit of alcohol. He has since been bailed pending further inquiries” – Manchester Police Statment
Penalties are high for this level of crime, as you would suspect governments don’t want those in charge of a plane full of passengers to be drunk. Pilots also need to watch out, as drinking the night before can impair the body for over 24 hours since the last drink.
This situation mirrors one that happened a few months ago on Air India, in which a pilot, who was also the airline’s safety officer, was found to be drunk before a major flight.
“We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement and further questions should be referred to them” – American Airlines Statement
Passengers are not angels either, with one recently getting so drunk that the plane had to return back to it’s departing airport and incur a fine of $12,000. The passenger was attempting to use the lavatory during takeoff and became abusive when he was denied. You can read the full story here.
The pilots name has not been released by the police nor the airline. The pilot has been asked to remain in England until their court date.
What do you think, should the pilot be heavily punished or is it a simple mistake?