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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, 17:08
  #61 (permalink)  
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FL

Sorry to be pedantic, but presumption of innocence is not defending someone, it is defending a civilised system.

I agree completely with your conclusion.
 
Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:21
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F3G

You're not being pedantic. I meant to make the point and forgot.

As you correctly say, arguing that the pilot should be presumed to be innocent is not defending him.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:24
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T

You know what's sad is, there's always a huge media beat up when this kind of thing happens, and cue the frenzy of outrage from all the spotters and enthusiasts and armchair experts that comprise 80% of the posters on this website now. One doesn't wish to minimize the seriousness of flying while drunk, of course it's reprehensible, however some people here should remember it's also a basic human right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

What does p!ss me off though is the uproar that accompanies these one-in-a-billion alcohol related incidences, when the infinitely more dangerous shadow of fatigue casts itself on a huge percentage of flights every day and gets totally ignored by the media and the public.

Taking some basic maths into account, we all know the statistic about human performance impairment after being awake for 20 hours, is equal to the legal drunk driving limit of 0.05 micrograms blood alcohol. Of course since we are held to a far more restrictive regime than drivers, consider that someone who's been awake for 20 hours is in fact equivalent to 5 and a half times over the legal alcohol limit for pilots (0.009 mcg).

And there are of course hundreds of pilots who are in the air over Europe every night, who have been awake for more than 20 hours. It's just not possible to do otherwise when you're locally acclimatized and rostered for night flights.

There will no doubt be sensationalist headlines in all the papers tomorrow alleging near death experiences on Virgin yada yada yada. Yet, can we get an ounce of sympathetic media coverage - or indeed any media coverage at all - when we try to get some kind of sanity imposed on the FTL schemes?

I know it's off topic but I just felt the need to vent sorry
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:40
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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!
Upon appointment, trainee ATCOs are subject to testing and then, for a period of twelve months after appointment, they can be randomly tested without refusal. It is in their contract, I believe.

Furthermore, ATCOs are subject to the same rules of "Just Cause" testing according to the Railways and Transport Act 2003 and the acceptable levels set within it.

Back on topic, a little pragmatism is needed here. This gentleman has so far been proven to have done nothing wrong and, in the event that he is, we need to show fairness and compassion to whatever extenuating circumstances may exist. If there are none other than carelessness, then we can throw stones but until then we must allow him to put his case forward.

HOWEVER, the public do put their lives in our hands and we are amply rewarded for performing the various tasks that we do. These rewards give us more satisfaction in our work than most and allows to have personal lives that are comfortable at worst. If the price to pay for this is not to be able to have a drink when we wish, then so be it.

I cannot agree with anyone on here playing the wounded soldier because they cannot have a few glasses of Claret due to impending work. It is not an invasion of our private lives, it is a step in the maintenance of the safety culture that makes British aviation the envy of many others.

P7
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:48
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HOWEVER, the public do put their lives in our hands and we are amply rewarded for performing the various tasks that we do. These rewards give us more satisfaction in our work than most and allows to have personal lives that are comfortable at worst. If the price to pay for this is not to be able to have a drink when we wish, then so be it.

I cannot agree with anyone on here playing the wounded soldier because they cannot have a few glasses of Claret due to impending work. It is not an invasion of our private lives,
Sorry Point Seven but I have to take issue with that. Fine, I may enjoy my job, and I may live comfortably, but WTH has that to do with drink? Would I be more entitled to a beer if my job was cruddy and I was skint? Not being able to have a few glasses of claret, or any other tipple, in moderation simply because somebody thinks it might in some miniscule way affect my performance the next day is a pretty damn large invasion of my private life. Some professional sportsmen are prevented from seeing their wives before a big game in case they are distracted. What next? No nooky for pilots 24 hours before a flight? No seeing the missus in case you have a blazing row and come to work distracted? No having kids in case they scream all night, keep you awake and leave you coming to work fatigued (and lets remember, having kids is as much a lifestyle choice as having a beer. You don't have to have them)?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 17:59
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I'm not sure exactly what sportsmen abstaining form sex has got to do with aviation professionals abstaining from intake of a substance that has been scientifically proven to have an adverse effect on their capacity to safely undertake their job????

And as far as I am concerned, there is a difference between coming to work "distracted" and "under the influence of alcohol". My point is not that just because we do well, we shouldn't be able to drink (although that is very adept paraphrasing), it was that if our work (which provides very well for us) means that we cannot drink at certain times prior to duty, for the sake of ensuring safety, then we should respect that. As you wish to use a sporting analogy, most top sportspeople tend to avoid alcohol when they wish to perform at their optimum level - I see no reason why we shouldn't do the same.

P7
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:03
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Anyone arguing or complaining about not being able to have a 'drink' between flight duties should have serious read of the sticky thread at the top of this forum. As pointed out by Lyle Prouse, if you feel so put out by the need for a 'drink' then you already have an alcohol problem.

It already amazes me how many of the younger pilots on here already make light of their need for a 'drink'. Anyone arguing that it is their right to have a 'drink' when off duty and that flight duty time limits should be adjusted in order to accomodate them should be seeking out the nearest AA meeting as they surely have a problem.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:07
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Facts thus far: Innocent until proven guilty

Opinion: I believe the term coming to work "impaired" is a more accurate description, and as such, that type of behaviour has no place in our profession. With all things being equal we shouldn't have to prove our fitness to fly on the basis of mandatory testing, however we don't live in a world where all things are equal.....the lunatics are running the asylum.

I'm just waiting for the day (very soon) when a pilot pots a security screener for being under the influence of alcohol
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:08
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The issue is that it is an equally arbitrary sanction. No sex for 24 hours, no booze for 24 hours. There is no science to either. The rules are quite clear for everyone to understand. No drink within 8 hours. (Effectively) zero alcohol in the blood when you report. Abide by both, as I do, and you can't go wrong. If you are prepared to go out and have a skinful the night before, or break the 8 hour rule, then a 24 hour restriction won't stop you either. It will, however, make criminals of the people who abide by the current rules and drink in moderation. You may draw a distinction between coming to work 'under the influence' (which in our case is pretty damn close to sobre anyway) versus coming to work distracted, but I have flown with very distracted people and I don't make any distinction between them when it comes to effects on performance. Neither should be on the flight deck, but I don't see the distraction police out in force, or a clamouring for no distraction within 24 hours.

Cargo Boy - I haven't seen anyone arguing that flight duty limits should be adjusted to accomadate drinking. I have seen plenty of people arguing that flight limits should be adjusted to intrude into our lives. Sticking a 24hr drinking limit in is no different to sticking a satellite tracker in our cars or spying on our emails in case we are writing bad things. It is symptomatic of an ever increasing desire to intrude into the lives of individuals, to micro-manage their existences in the name of the greater good. "Got a problem. Lets make a law to deal with it". Heck if they just got round to banning accidents we'd all be a lot safer would we not?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:24
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The rules are quite clear for everyone to understand. No drink within 8 hours. (Effectively) zero alcohol in the blood when you report. Abide by both, as I do, and you can't go wrong.
And where exactly are these "rules" written? As I understood it, it was a guideline that must take into account amount consumed, bodyweight and numerous other factors.

"Effectively" is NOT good enough I'm afraid - abide by these rules of yours and you ensure nothing. I'm afraid we are never going to agree but your blase attitude towards this causes me great concern.

If you are prepared to go out and have a skinful the night before, or break the 8 hour rule, then a 24 hour restriction won't stop you either.
Quite correct - but if you are prepared to go out and have a skinful that would affect you capacity to do your job then there is definitely an issue - you either have a problem that needs the correct treatment or you have an attitude that warrants a change of profession.

P7
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:39
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The rules are quite clear for most of us. I don't know if the 8 hour rule is in the law but it's certainly been in my companys rule book for years, along with most other major operators. The blood alcohol content most certainly is in the law. Scroll up the thread to see what the actual limit it but most are agreed it is effectively zero. Not actually zero, but as good as. Bodyweight and other factors play no part in it. Bust the blood alcohol limit and you go to jail. Simple as that. I'm not sure where the blase attitude comes into it?

Couldn't agree more about the skinful comment. If you have such poor judgement that you'll go out on a bender the night before flying then perhaps you should be in another job. But equally, if you lack the judgement to see what is an isolated, extremely rare occurrence compared to a persistent, ever present daily threat and legislate against the former whilst ignoring the latter then maybe you shouldn't be making rules. Why should it be that I would be a criminal for having two pints of shandy in the pub this afternoon if I was flying at noon tomorrow, yet I could legitimately remain awake from now until noon then go flying half asleep?
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 18:41
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Just to throw another one out there...

I do hope that there was some very random reason as to WHY the pilot was "smelling" of booze.
There could be any number of reasons and I will wait to hear, well read, the full report and hopefully a good ending to it.

A hypothetical thought, what about drugs? yes yes I know drugs are not allowed but how do you tell if someone is taking drugs, even prescribed drugs? I understand that there ae those that we should use and are approved by the CAA AME's but they might have an adverse reaction with someone that is not noticable untill to late and some do have quite a long disapation time, till they are compleatly out of the system, will it get to the point of which we must be compleatly free from any drug.

Just a question.

Hope it is taken care of quickly.

259
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 19:54
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rjay259

The same rules, and problems apply as apply to drivers.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 20:30
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8 hours has no relevance anymore. It's all down to BAC
I was recently breathalysed in the crewroom in UK after a 'report' from a member of the public that I'd been in a bar the night before (19 hours before report time). Special Branch, CID and uniform all attended for the breathalyser.
Obviously I came up as 'zero' but it can happen to any of us any day.
Afterwards I was so shook up I think I should have gone off sick. It was pretty daunting.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 20:42
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Unfortunately I have been involved in this process. Just the once, in 25 years of working airside; one of the least pleasant things I've had to take part in (dead bodies of course being FAR worse, but still down that end of the spectrum)

The process works like this. A concerned co-worker (security officer, handling agent staff or whatever) calls someone of responsibility (in my case, Ops Duty Manager) and reports a flight deck crew member of smelling of alchohol. To cut a long story short, you get the allegation from the source, if you think it needs taking further, you call the Police. The Police then use the specialist breathalyzer capable of measuring down to these limits. If this is failed, the crewmember is arrested and taken to the Police station. This is where things start to go wrong, in my opinion. If you are a motorist, apparently you give another sample of breath to a more sensitive intoximeter. This will then tell you whether or not you are going to be prosecuted, on the spot. Unfortunately, it isn't calibrated for the levels that we have to abide by, so your ONLY option is to have 2 samples of blood taken (one for the Police and one for you). This takes up to SIX WEEKS to give an indication of whether or not you're going to be prosecuted. Absolutely appalling, in my view.

I hadn't read Lyle Prouse's piece before but I was quite moved by it. I'm reminded of Capt Al Haynes (for different reasons) whom I had the great privilige of listening to and meeting when he was touring with his Sioux City lecture.

I hope BALPA start a campaign to at least get the process streamlined so that anyone is aware of whether or not they're going to get prosecuted at the time of the original test failure, NOT have to wait 6 weeks or more of what must be sheer bl00dy hell. But probably they won't.

Cheers,
TheOddOne
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 20:59
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This link should explain it

http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/FOD200328.PDF

This section
4.3 Offences – Prescribed Limit (Section 93)
4.3.1 A person commits an offence if:
4.3.2 He/she performs an aviation function at a time when the proportion of alcohol in his/her breath, blood or
urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or
4.3.3 He/she carries out an activity that is ancillary to an aviation function at a time when the proportion of
alcohol in his/her breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.
4.4 Detailed Limits
4.4.1 In detail the prescribed limits are:
When:
acting as a pilot, cabin crew, flight engineer, flight navigator or flight radio-telephony operator of an
aircraft during flight;

attending the flight deck of an aircraft during flight to give or supervise training, to administer a test,
to observe a period of practice or to monitor or record the gaining of experience; or

acting as an air traffic controller in pursuance of a licence granted under or by virtue of an
enactment (other than a licence granted to a student):

The prescribed limit of alcohol is:
a. In the case of breath: 9 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres.
b. In the case of blood: 20 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 21:10
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We are all uncomfortable with the actual reporting process, especially if coming from a random source. Whilst it is very difficult to see what else another member of staff is to do if someone is clearly hat-racked, I do wish there was at least some burden of responsibility and accountability on the reporter, so that people know that they had better be damn sure it isn't a whim (or a vendetta) before picking up the phone to the boys in blue.

A friend of mine was breath-tested by what appeared to be a very aggressive Gestapo unit at the airport car-park gates at 0dark30 before reporting. Transpires someone had phoned the police to tell them he was not fit to fly through alcohol. For various (irrelevant to the story) reasons, it was a certainty that his ex-wife and/or her new Beau had been the source - they had been waging an entirely malicious and nasty campaign to discredit him, not only with his colleagues, but even with his children.

He was absolutely clear of course, but he was so shaken that he should never have got airborne after that .. he 'regained his wits' as he put it, about an hour into the cruise, realising only afterwards that he would have been less than 100% if anything had happened.

I, like anyone with half a brain, know that drinking and flying don't mix - but I'm really uncomfortable that just about anyone can cause this sort of trouble without having to justify it.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 21:42
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I know the topic has moved on slightly since Flying Lawyers comments but just to clarify the Pilot concerned was not led off the plane by Police in handcuffs. He was allowed to leave the aircraft unescorted to Police Officers at the head of the jetty.
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 23:19
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srs

Thanks for the clarification.

I did wonder if the un-named 'airport insider' who made the handcuffs claim might have got a little carried away when he/she was also quoted as saying: “Another few minutes and he would have been flying across the Atlantic with hundreds of passengers. The results could have been catastrophic.”

Obviously not someone given to under-statement.


FL
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Old 2nd Apr 2007, 23:41
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This has got me thinking, how many accidents/incidents can be put down to alcohol?

The tabloids all go stratospheric about this, but what are the real figures to back up the hysteria.

How many of us have been airborne whilst struggling to stay concious with fatigue? Most I would guess. I certainly know that for me there have been flights where by the end, if there had been an emergency to deal with then things would have gone pear-shaped rapidly.
How many accidents/incidents have been attributed to tiredness?

Was the old softly, softly approach to alcohol problems better than the current jackboot tendancies of the police and renta cops?
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