A British Airways pilot was hauled out of the cockpit by armed police after a flight technician called 999 as the aircraft was being prepared for takeoff.
Julian Monaghan, 49, was arrested amid dramatic scenes on board the 300-passenger plane at around 8pm at Gatwick Airport in January.
The 12-hour flight to Mauritius was minutes from departing when police were called because cabin crew could smell alcohol on the pilot’s breath.
Emelyn Jones, defending, said his client had a vodka and coke at 10.30am, claiming the pilot had drunk in an attempt to send him to sleep before the evening flight.
But Monaghan, a long-serving British Airways first officer, was allegedly still drunk when he stepped into the cockpit.
Airport police rushed to the departure gate after receiving the 999 call and Monaghan was arrested and led off in handcuffs in front of stunned passengers.
On Wednesday he appeared at Crawley Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded guilty to being over the limit while reporting for flying duty.
Wearing a dark suit and tie, Monaghan, who divides his time between South Africa and Harmondsworth, west London, spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address as being under the care of his solicitors.
Mel Wotton, prosecuting, told the court Monaghan had boarded the flight along with the pilot and was preparing the plane.
She said: “One of the aircraft technicians was concerned they could smell alcohol on the pilot. Bosses spoke to police who duly arrived and they could also smell alcohol on his breath.”
She said a breath test was carried out and he was found to have 52mg of alcohol in his breath – the legal limit is 9mg for a pilot.
The court heard a blood sample was subsequently taken and found it have 86mg in 100ml of blood – the drink drive limit is 80mg but the legal limit for a pilot is just 20mg.
Mr Jones, defending, said Monaghan had only had one vodka and coke more than eight hours before the flight was due to take off.
Monaghan had been a passenger on a flight the night before and had not slept, the court heard.
Mr Jones added: “He had the drinks that morning to help him sleep in the afternoon. He spent the day without food and without sleep.
“He turned up for work appalled astonished and horrified to find he was over the limit.”
He said pilots had to follow a policy of an eight our alcohol prohibition before any flight which Monaghan had observed.
Mr Jones said: “His prohibition began more than eight hours before hand. However he could not sleep and spent he day without the food and without drink.”
“He was appalled, astonished and horrified when he found he was over the limit.”
Mr Jones said Monaghan was not due to take up responsibility of take off and would not have flown the plane until they were three hours into the flight.
He said that although the matter was “very serious”, the level of alcohol was so low that if it was a drink drive case then he would not have been charged.
Mr Jones said: “No harm was caused, His culpability was somewhat lower because he was careless rather than wilfully ignoring a prohibition of alcohol before the flight.
“By his guilty plea he has thrown away the only career he has every known. He has been a pilot all his life. By his own misconduct he has suffered. He has been punished enough.”
Adjourning the case for sentence at crown court next week, chairman of the bench Dr David Wiggins, warned that Monaghan faced an immediate custodial sentence.
Dr Wiggins said: “The comparison with drink driving is somewhat spurious as flying 777 is a bit different to driving a car.”
Monaghan joined British Airways, whose motto is “To fly, to serve”, in 2001. First officers at the airline typically earn more than £60,000.
A British Airways spokeswoman said: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable and not what we expect from our highly professional fleet of pilots.
“The safety and security of our customers and colleagues is always our top priority.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/06/british-airways-pilot-arrested-cockpit-panicked-cabin-crew-called/