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VS A340 pilot breathalysed at LHR: WRONGLY ACCUSED

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VS A340 pilot breathalysed at LHR: WRONGLY ACCUSED

Old 2nd Apr 2007, 11:21
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It's hard to add to this topic without simply repeating what has gone before, or taking sides. So perhaps I could add the following observations:

- Do we know that the police breathalysing equipment, presumably calibrated to detect levels more relevant to motoring offences, can accurately detect 9 microgrammes? Especially if products such as cough syrups or cold remedies have been used?

Surely there are two types of people who get caught up in these affairs... the ones who are simply stupid and reckless, and the ones who have a genuine problem that creates such stress in their life that they become alcohol-dependent? I have known both types in the airline world, and I have little sympathy for the former, but enormous sympathy for the latter.

I would also have to say that I have flown with lots of pilots that fall into the first category. There is a drinking culture in aviation, not as pervasive as some other industries, but it is there (as it is amongst most professional groups). I am a little surprised that airlines are not a lot more pro-active in educating their staff on this issue...
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 11:51
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Not a pilot! just a humble and slightly concerned SLF.

Why are some who claim to be professionals in the aviation community so angry at the security staff who 'dobbed the pilot in'?.

Whos meant to report it then if theres a suspicion?. And the argument of dont worry if a pilot is over the limit as long as he's not tired - bizarre.

He's been arrested so presumably there may be a case to answer and the process of the law will follow. Extremely unpleasant for him (or her?) but whats the alternative?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 12:37
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I have every sympathy for the pilot if he's got problems in his life or was under stress or whatever, but the minute it affects not only his job, but potentially 300+ lives, it becomes a problem, and I hope they throw the book at him...if he's found guilty by trial obviously.

No matter what goes on in your private life, it doesn't excuse getting drunk the night before you're taking on such a responsibility as flying a commercial aircraft, if that is what he tried to do.

What is more worrying is the fact that so many people are on here defending turning up drunk for a duty!! If you're unfit, you call in sick, its that simple!!

If, as has been mentioned here, its security trying to get back at him, then thats not on. But the fact that he was breathalysed, then arrested, implies he was over the limit and has a case to answer does it not?!?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 12:54
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Virgin is a tough job; no way out of major longhaul. How they keep a "normal" home life together is beyond me.
Utter rubbish.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 13:33
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My reading of a lot of the posts on this thread indicate to me that many in aviation know little of the legislation under which they operate, for example Part 5 of the Railways And Transport Safety Act 2003 says, amongst other things:
"This Part extends to the flight and cabin crew of an aircraft, air traffic controllers and licensed aircraft maintenance engineers in the United Kingdom. It also applies to the crew of an aircraft registered in the United Kingdom wherever it may be in the world."
"Section 92 makes it an offence to perform an aviation function or an ancillary activity whilst impaired through alcohol or drugs."
"Section 94 subsections (3), (4), (5) and (6) apply the offences of being either over the limit or unfit, to people preparing to carry out an aviation function or otherwise holding themselves ready to carry out one of those functions by virtue of being on duty or standby."
The ANO only has two short paragraphs referring to alcohol and really only sets the scene, the Railways And Transport Safety Act 2003 is much more explicit, covering alcohol limits, police right of access and much more.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 13:44
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Okay. I'm not a pilot. Never was, never wanted to be, likely never will be. I'm just an ordinary guy who does his job, pays his bills, looks after his family, and generally keeps his nose clean. I enjoy an occasional drink, just like most people. I used to be a very frequent SLF; now, as the need and the enjoyment reduce, I fly very little. I've had a long and strong interest in all matters relating to civil aviation, though, which is why I read these threads. I respect anyone, pilot or whatever, who does their job well, who enjoys and is enthusiastic about their job, and who does it within the rules and guidelines established by society. I understand the time, the effort, the expense, and the dedication incurred by pilots in reaching the pinnacle of their profession - the command of a passenger jet.

But, after reading thread after thread just like this one, there's one thing I don't understand. Why do pilots drink before reporting for duty? It can't be ignorance of the penalties, can it? Stress? Guess what - we all have stress in our lives. There are times when I'd gladly swap mine for yours. The need to be sociable? It really is possible to be sociable without the crutch of alcohol. Peer pressure? Resist it. The likelihood of getting caught (the thrill of the chase)? Go paintballing instead. Addiction? Admit it and get treatment. Otherwise, it really is simple. If you want to keep your job, and the income that goes with it, don't drink within the 24 hours before you go flying. How hard can that be? Why throw it all away just for a bl00dy drink??
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 13:55
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Let's hope he wasn't over the limit and he just had a big swig of listerine before going through security because he had to throw his 105 ml bottle away

I don't understand why people get so worked up about security stitching him up. If a flightcrew member gets searched and the security officer smells alcohol on his breath it's no less than his duty as a person to stop him form getting airborne. Wouldn't you stop him from flying a plane? (Maybe "go home your sick" is a better way than reporting someone...)

And why do people always assume someone has a big alcohol problem? He might just have had one pint to many in the pub with his mates the afternoon before going to work early in the morning. why someone would then show up at work with a hangover, or even worse still "intoxicated" is beyond me though.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:00
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For Gods Sake!!! This PERSON has been accused of SMELLING of alcohol, nothing else. The rest is conjecture and subjective!

Whether it be this person in a Pilots uniform, an coach driver or what ever else. Once reported to the police the authorities would have to be seen to act. Umbrella syndrome etc....

This thread appears to be trial by mob in some cases. Lets also hope this Pilots identity stays secure until this mess is sorted out correctly.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:04
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oh so simple eh..............

JerryCoe, you make it sound soooooo simple!! When ever is life that simple?

For many piloys not drinking for 24 hour before flying means almost only ever drinking when on leave. Rosters can be that tight.

As for an alcoholic, you say "admit it" !!? Thats about as easy as getting a smoker to admit they are attempting suicide. You obviously know nothing about alcoholism....

If only there was a breathalyser that could detect fatigue or overtiredness! A huge percentage of the pilot population would be off sick tomorrow.

Never be scared of the chance of a 'drunk' pilot. But be very wary about how tired/fatigued your crew are.

Last edited by outofsynch; 3rd Apr 2007 at 07:29.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:06
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The problem is that with a limit of 9mg/100ml, it is not too difficult to be close to the limit on an early report if you have been out for dinner and a few drinks the night before. Metabolism, stomach contents etc all affect the rate at which you can clear the alcohol from the system. We all have a responsibility to be fit to fly but the company doesn't have the right to stop me drinking in my time off. They do however have a right to expect me to pitch up at work with less than the legal limit but it woul be nice to be able to assess what that limit was. Pilot unions have long been calling for some system to give crews an indication of what their levels might be, without it turning into a witch-hunt.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:13
  #51 (permalink)  
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No one here should be having a go at the security personnel that alerted the police to the fact that a pilot about to operate a flight smelt of alcohol if that is really what they smelt. The police are obviously bound to respond and investigate. The reports that the pilot was removed from the flight, breathalized and then bailed implies that the pilot failed the breath test but do we know by how muc?.

What would have happened next is that the pilot would have had to provide a sample for more detailed analysis. What we don't know is the result of that second test and until we do, those more sanctimonious posters on here should be ashamed of themselves. He may have been barely over the legal limit and still been well below the drink drive limit. Does that make him drunk as some of the media are suggesting? Of course it doesn't.

With a a blood alcohol limit set at one quarter of the drink drive limit, it is very easy to be over. The reason there was a limit set at all was because the body can produce alcohol naturally from fermentation of foods in the stomach. We must wait and see if the results of the second test were positive before allowing the hoier than thou brigades to spout off on here.

As for anyone else who thinks that taking the rules to the limit with drinking before a duty, perhaps you should consider the evocative postings by Lyle Prouse here on PPrune which I will take the liberty of repeating:
Originally Posted by LProuse
Pilots and Alcohol
My name is Lyle Prouse and I was the infamous Northwest Airlines Captain back in March of '90 who was arrested on Northwest Flight 650 (FAR-MSP) for flying drunk, along with the copilot and second officer.

Subsequently, I was fired by NWA, stripped of my flight certificates, and lost my medical due to alcoholism. I became a national pariah, was sent to federal prison for 16 months, served 14, and went broke within 30 days of the arrest. Furthermore, the trial judge put sanctions on me to insure I'd never fly again due to my age (51 at the time).

I want to be clear about a number of things. First, I make no excuses, I accept complete responsibility, and I openly acknowledge that everything that happened to me was fair and appropriate. Period.

Having said that, let me turn to some of the comments offered by a number of pilots in this forum. Some of those comments indicate some knowledge and understanding of the subject of alcohol/alcoholism and some indicate ignorance bolstered by arrogance.

When I talk about alcoholism I separate the issues between the acts and behavior (and the consequences that flow from that) - and the disease itself.

Being an alcoholic does not relieve me of responsibility for what I do nor does it grant me any immunity or excuse anything. Anytime I commit an unlawful act, alcoholic or not, it's incumbent upon me to accept the consequences of that act.

It should be noted that while alcoholism is not an excuse for behavior it very clearly explains a lot of it in the case of the alcoholic. It might surprise some to know that since I got sober over 16 yrs ago I've never flown drunk or received a DUI... Nor have I done any of the shameful, disgraceful, offensive, and embarrassing things that drunks routinely do.

One of THE first steps of recovery demands acceptance of personal responsibility and being accountable. So the talking heads, Bill O'Reilly for one, who declare that the only reason for treating alcoholism as a disease is so those with it can escape responsibility, is absurd beyond words. Those ideas only come from non-alcoholics...in my experience.

I have been sober since the date of my arrest, over 16 years and some nine months now. I am active in recovery, speak all over the United States and Canada (for free, of course), have been involved with virtually every major airline in their alcohol programs. I am of Native American heritiage and I've spoken on reservations in the US and Canada, and at Native American sobriety conventions.

I served out my prison time, came out broke and disgraced, and eventually earned back each of the four licenses I needed, commencing with the private and doing it, quite literally, from the ground up...after the judge miraculously lifted the sanctions on me. I did it the same way I stay sober, one day at a time, one thing at a time, one step at a time, and one license at a time.

I'd never had a private license - I came out of the Marine Corps as a Vietnam vet and quickly acquired a Com'l ticket and inst rating after a quickie test...and was hired 3 weeks later by NWA (Aug '68). I had gone in as a barely 18 yr old private and I left 11 1/2 yrs later as a Captain and jet pilot with an excellent reputation.

Not quite four years after my arrest and imprisonment, the Pres/CEO of NWA, Mr. John Dasburg, personally reinstated me to full flight status at NWA. It was an act of personal courage on his part that the word "extraordinary" doesn't even begin to approach.

I retired honorably at age 60, in Sept '98, as a 747 captain, having done all I could to fully vindicate all those who had believed in me. Additionally, the tough Minnesota judge who tried and sent me to prison suggested, as I retired, that I apply for a presidential pardon and said he'd support it even tho he'd NEVER supported a petition for pardon in his 16 yrs on the bench. Two years later I rec'd a Pres Pardon - a HUGE, life altering event for a federal felon!

To one contributor who said alcoholism is a lifetime disease and implied we who are recovering are delicately balanced on the razor's edge and might relapse anytime, I say he is only partially correct. It is a lifetime disease, that's why it's called Alcohol-ISM and not Alcohol-WASM. But so is diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases. And, yes, some never make it, never recover, and never stay sober - and they die (both my parents took this disease to their graves).

But to discount the millions of us around the world who live good, productive, solid lives in recovery displays a shallow and ignorant way of thinking. And to say no alcoholic should ever be trusted in the cockpit because they might relapse is absurd. Anyone in the cockpit might keel over, have a stroke, heart attack, brain anueryism, or some other possible problem and it's nonsense thinking to make a blanket pronouncement and condemnation of everyone based on what "might" happen.

Many don't make it. But many don't survive cancer, heart disease, and other calamities of life. The airlines have THE most successful rate of alcoholism recovery among any group, virtually double the norm in the rest of our society. And they do a good job of weeding out those who will not or cannot get sober - and that's as it should be.

I'm well aware that there are those, still today, who think I should have been put against a wall and shot; and that I most certainly NEVER should have been allowed to fly again. Fortunately, I don't think that reflects most of the heart and soul of the American character who, traditionally, support and encourage the underdog and applaud comebacks.

Alcoholism is a treatable, recoverable disease. Today there are over 3500 recovering alcoholic pilots flying for airlines. One of the leading docs I know (who's worked in the aviation/alcoholism field for over 30 yrs) says, "When I get on the plane I glance in the cockpit. If it's a face I recognize, I breathe a sigh of relief. If it's one I don't...then I sit in the back and wonder."

To each his/her own. I doubt anything I've said here will change any minds and may only provoke further debate. My only purpose here is to speak the truth as I know it and do it quietly and clearly.

Being an alcoholic was something I first viewed as a disgraceful, shameful, stigmatic curse. It has evolved into the greatest thing that ever occurred to me because of what it has forced me to do. My kids won't have to watch me die a grim, lingering alcoholic death, as I had to with my parents. My life today is geared toward giving back more than I ever took, making amends where ever possible, and being constantly grateful for the joy of sobriety and the brightness of each day.

What I have expressed here today is not something unique to me. It is shared by virtually every recovering person I know. I just came home a few minutes ago from speaking in Denver last night. As is always the case, I met people who inspire me and make me glad I was forced into a program of recovery I NEVER would have willingly accepted when I was drinking.

Blue skies,
Lyle Prouse
Ex federal inmate 04478-041
Ret'd NWA Capt 086140
Marine Capt 086099
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:29
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Playing devils advocate

Portside you state, correctly "For Gods Sake!!! This PERSON has been accused of SMELLING of alcohol, nothing else."

When I stand in a pub and drink Pepsi/coke I leave, normally smelling of cigarette smoke. If I have had a drink accidentally spilt on me then I may smell of alcohol. I go home, wash/bath/shower, and the smell goes.

This Person was smelling of alcohol, so how did it happen. I would not have thought he popped into the local at LHR for a Pepsi/coke/OJ before a flight as he would have been in uniform!

I am not one of the men and women who sit in the pointy end, I work behind the door with the the SLF.

I have a few friends that through their personal life crises have turned to drink for whatever escape they could gain from it. Two of them were crew, one realised they had a problem and approached the company. They were taken from flying duties and support till they were at a point in there life that they could come back to flying duties, wonderful Another didn't, started turning up for work looking dishevelled and unkempt. the first time he came in smelling of alcohol it was suggested he remove himself from the flight. He refused. So he was removed from the flight and arrested. The cabin crew did this.

All of us in the aviation industry have a duty to care for ourselves, colleagues and passengers. We all know the rules and regulations that the CAA/JAR etc and our respective airlines impose.

If you have timed it wrong then go sick, if you think you may have a problem go to your airline or union.

Imagine something had gone wrong during this aircraft takeoff and an accident had occurred with deaths and injuries, and people smelt alcohol on anyone of the crews!!

I have utmost respect for the men and women in the F/D as I do for my colleagues in the cabin, but if I smelt alcohol on any of them when reporting for work, I would remove them, or suggest they remove themselves, from the flight and I would report it
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:31
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Umm...very dramatic Portside but not quite accurate.
According to all reports, he was breathalysed before arrest.....
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 14:41
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If the security staff suspected him of drinking, what were they doing letting him through to board the aircraft?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 15:02
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Angus McOatup

Because they have no power to detain him. Furthermore, it clearly demonstrates that in spite of the view of some on here, they do not decide the fitness of pilots, or anyone else, to fly.

Portside, he has been accused of having a blood alcohol concerntration above a prescibed limit. iain8867, is correct in that a smell of alcohol can come from anywhere, that is why he was breath tested. That he was then arrested means either he failed that screening test, or refused to take it. Either way, at the Police station he will have been offered a further test, which presumably he took, and will be given the result by post before he returns on his bail date.

If he is then charged, ie was oiver the prescribed limit, then it is for him to put foreward a defence, or to challange the evidence, be that of why he was required to take the test initially, or the result of any blood test. A court decides if he is guilty, no one else.

The allagation of trial by mob works both ways, both in defending him and finding him guilty.

What is a concern is that with the surrounding publicity over pilots being arrested, and the sentences given to those found guilty, that there are still people getting arrested for it.

Either, the message isn't sinking in, there is a problem with alcoholic pilots, or simply that people have no idea what they can and can't drink and the time it takes to get out of thier system.

I would suggest it is the last of those options, in which case, as I have suggested before, it may be solved by installing a self test kit in the loo's somewhere before crew check in. The cost is minimal, yes, it would invlove then either reporting sick, or explaining why you are unfit to fly, but at least it gives those who haven't thought a chance, those who are alcoholic an oportunity to reflect on thier habit and do something about it, and would focus everyone elses mind on the subject.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 15:42
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For many piloys not drinking for 24 hour before flying means almost only ever drinking when on leave. Rosters can be that tight.
And the problem with that is.........??????

If some crew feel they cannot cope on their current rosters without regular alcohol consumption, perhaps they are in the wrong occupation.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 15:58
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As a follow up and in reply to those who have tried to justify the allegations, (thats what they are at this point!). He may well have failed a breath test at LHR, that does not make him a drunk, an alcholic, or an unfit person to take command. And has been pointed out already I as an F/O am able to act in accordance with any emergency procedure with proffesionalism in securing passenger safety and that of the A/C, if the skipper should become incapacitated for whatever reason. The sensationlism therefore of the press has not acted in the best intersts of the publicIn my post I simply wanted to highlight the injustice of all points, pointing South. The second tests carried out at the police station have not been made known to anyone. This will be availed in May, should it have proved a positive 2nd sample.

Security could have informed him of there intentions, and may well have done, we don`t know the facts.

My last point was to keep the mans name secret because if there is no case to answer MUD STICKS!!!

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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 16:23
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No one has tried to justify an allagation. Just corrrected your point that the only allagation against him, is a smell of drink. That is not correct.
The second test wont be know to anyone, so it can't be made public. It is usually(Although does not have to be) a blood test, that takes time to have anaylised. It may be that if he opted for blood to be tested, his own sample will have been anaylised faster.
As to the press, they do the same thing with these cases they do with drivers, MOST drivers invloved in drink drive incidents are not drunk, far from it, just the same all, so far, of the pilots invloved in recent court cases have not been. It's life, you don't believe most of what you read in the papers, credit the population with some inteligence, nor do many of them.
On the security warning the pilot of any intention to call Police, maybe they should have in the minds of some. Then again, read some of the comments made about them on this site, frankly, if I was in thier shoes, and was treated to the contempt shown by some 'proffessional' crew on here, I'd not be inclined to help one out either.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:03
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I disagree with the proposition:
The allagation of trial by mob works both ways, both in defending him and finding him guilty.
There's an important difference.
Those arguing that he should be presumed to be innocent are being sensible and fair.
The mob who've already 'found him guilty' and condemned him are not.

We've just seen (in the Manchester case) a good illustration of why it's wrong to jump to conclusions before the facts are known.
Unfortunately, there will always be people quick to do so.

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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:07
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Originally Posted by Gonzo
For many piloys not drinking for 24 hour before flying means almost only ever drinking when on leave. Rosters can be that tight.

And the problem with that is.........??????

If some crew feel they cannot cope on their current rosters without regular alcohol consumption, perhaps they are in the wrong occupation.
And the problem with that is its an unnecessary and intrusive restriction which has no significant, if any, benefit at all to flight safety. It's a sop to the "something must be done!" community, just like many of the current ridiculous 'security' regulations. It does nothing to make us safer but it does p*ss off the guys at the pointy end.

I haven't heard of any ATCOs turning up for work high on crack cocaine lately, but why take that risk? Perhaps mandatory urine and blood tests for alcohol and narcotics for all ATCOs would prevent a disaster? Spacing a little too tight leading to a go-around? ATCOs must be bladdered, better call the police! Ridiculous suggestions? Of course they are, but it's not far off the nonsense we've had to put up with over the last couple of years!
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