Tuesday 6 December 2016

Pilot suspended after failing alcohol test moments before departure

Gavin Haines

Published 22/08/2016 | 13:55

The pilot failed a breath test moments before taking off from Frankfurt Credit: GETTY
The pilot failed a breath test moments before taking off from Frankfurt Credit: GETTY

A Sri Lankan Airlines pilot failed an alcohol test in Frankfurt on Friday, moments before he was due to take off with 274 passengers and crew on board.

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The crew of flight UL554, which was scheduled to fly between Frankfurt and Colombo, raised the alarm after noticing the captain's unusual behaviour.

The pilot, who has yet to be named, was forced to take a breathalyser test, which he failed.

“Upon receiving the results (of the test) Sri Lankan Airlines took immediate steps to suspend the services of the said captain and took alternative measures to operate the flight to Colombo,” the airline said in a statement.

Flight UL554 was reportedly held up for more than 15 hours as the airline scrambled to find a replacement captain.

An internal investigation is now underway.

The drink-fly limit is extremely stringent. In the UK it is 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100ml of blood, compared to the drink-drive limit of 80mg per 100ml.

Test failures are rare, but they do happen. On July 18, Scottish police arrested two pilots on suspicion of being drunk in charge of an Air Transat passenger jet, which they were due to fly to Canada with 248 people on board.

The Canadian pilots, Jean-Francois Perreault, and Imran Zafar Syed, were charged under the Railways and Transport Safety Act and will remain in custody until their next court appearance, according to Herald Scotland.

Air Transat has agreed to pay the 248 passengers £500 each in compensation and has suspended the pilots pending the investigation. 

In August 2015 an AirBaltic flight carrying 109 holidaymakers was grounded in Oslo after four of the five crew members failed alcohol tests.

Police were tipped off prior to departure by a passenger who suspected the crew had been drinking.

The co-pilot was found to be seven times over the legal alcohol limit and was sentenced to six months in prison. The pilot was given 10 months behind bars, while the two flight attendants were sentenced to 45 and 60 days.

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