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Could your pilot be drunk? Or just press fabrication?

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Could your pilot be drunk? Or just press fabrication?

Old 2nd Feb 2003, 11:42
  #21 (permalink)  
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Gentlemen, gentlemen...

An article has been written that alleges Stansted Pilots regularly drink (in public) fall out of taxis dropping them off at the airport ,even fall down stairs in the terminal. And that they operate the aircraft when intoxicated.

Anyone connected with aviation in any way will recognise that none of this behaviour could possibly take place without the individual being suspended before he even reached the airplane steps.

The public do not know this and we owe it to the customers to disprove the allegations of the taxi-driver (If, indeed, he actually exists).

I intend to make it "Put up or shut up" time for Mr Paul Miles and have written to the paper. I suggest we all do the same but in a manner that will re-assure the travelling public that we are a responsible bunch of people.
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 12:24
  #22 (permalink)  
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Absolutely spot on, Lou.
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 13:14
  #23 (permalink)  

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I have provided a link to the Press Complaints Council in my previous post so feel free to contact them with your complaint.

Below is a copy of my email to them should any of you wish to add your own, feel free to use it as a template.
Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to complain about the following publication: The Telegraph

On the date of: 1st February 2003

The Headline was: Could your pilot be over the limit?

My complaint details are as follows:

Based on clause 1 (i) of the code of practice, namely:

1 Accuracy
_i) Newspapers and periodicals must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material including pictures.

The article in question can be viewed electronically at:


Specifically, the journalist has used as the cornerstone of his article a quote by an unnamed and unidentified taxi driver which can be proved by official Civil Aviation Authority statistics to be a blatant lie. The quote by the taxi driver that he is "always picking up airline crew and pilots from bars and taking them straight to work" and "You can smell the alcohol on them and sometimes they have trouble getting out of the car," is obviously inaccurate, misleading and distorted.

If only 15 out of 10,000 UK professional pilots a year are losing their licences due to alcohol abuse, which equates to 0.15% of the workforce then how is it possible that this taxi driver is allegedly 'always' picking up drunk pilots? Furthermore, why hasn't the journalist bothered to question if the taxi driver is telling the truth? Surely if this taxi driver really existed he would have informed the authorities or at least the press at an earlier stage.

How the Telegraph can let an article such as this be published without checking facts or maintaining standards of accuracy as laid down by their news depratment is surprising.

Yours Sincerely

Danny Fyne
The Professional Pilots RUmour NEtwork
As for the luvvie who considers him/herself to be the editor of the Telegraph, I just sent them a link to this thread!
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 13:55
  #24 (permalink)  

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No doubt Mr Miles will be first to bring the public's attention to a fatigue related incident, but only if it happens on a "bad news day",


Simple really, all he and his lackeys want to do is outsell the other newspapers. It doesn't matter if they are posh papers like The Times or the gutter press.

Sales are money, their wages, and the don't appear to worry who they stuff to get there. That's why it is necessary to have a complaints' authority.

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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 13:58
  #25 (permalink)  
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As "Crime Stoppers" are offering Cash rewards for reporting drunk drivers....check out you cabbie and make the call!
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 20:58
  #26 (permalink)  
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pilots are still human beings

while you are all so busy shooting the messenger you seem to have forgotten the message - unpalatable as it may be to you.

The message from this recent incident, and the arrests last year of two crews in the USA, and the 'Dispatches' documentary and suspension/dismissal of several BA pilots in 2000 is that pilots have flown and continue to attempt to fly commercial aircraft when their capacity to do so has been significantly diminished by having ingested moderate to substantial quantities of alcohol within the 12 hours prior to flight. You all seem to be evading the issue - which is that the safety of commercial air transport has been and is being compromised by an admittedly small number of pilots who cannot or will not control their drinking habits.

The objective of the CAA and the airlines should be to ensure that no pilot ever reaches the flight deck with any alcohol in his/her system. Since Pilots are only human beings they will want to drink from time to time, just like most other normal mortals. However they have to be able to exercise a greater degree of self-discipline than many other professionals, to avoid their private drinking habits affecting their professional roles as pilots. Sadly it seems that a small minority are unable to do this. Why will BALPA not accept random testing and why will the CAA not mandate such testing now? Mark my words - it will happen one day in the UK - but sadly only after a major fatal accident enquiry has identified alcohol in the pilot's blood stream as a causal factor.

Those responsible pilots who know how to drink sensibly and who allow at least 12 hours bottle to throttle, will have nothing to fear. Those who cannot or will not heed the message need the added incentive of random testing to force them to comply, or to identify them early before they are involved in an incident, so they can be given the help they need to control their problem.

It has always seemed anomalous to me that train drivers and lorry drivers are subject to random drug and alcohol testing but pilots and captains of ships are not. They are all humain beings, are all fallible and can all cause death and destruction if not fully awake, fully alert and fully sober when performing their duties.

I expect I will get a sh*t load of abuse after this post but hope that instead I get some sensible and rational discussion of the issue of drugs and alcohol in relation to flight safety.

Pobody's nerfect
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 21:06
  #27 (permalink)  
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It makes me so blo*dy angry to think the two main papers we hand out to passengers on BA aircraft are the Mail and Telegraph .

In future I'm going to hide these dirty rags and bring in copies of the 'Beano' and 'Roy of the Rovers' as the content is less fictonal
than these second rate 'rags' whose 'journos' are the ones who need to stop drinking to enable them to write something decent.

Can I urge all airline staff to STOP buying these two CR*P papers,
and don't offer them on board and make a small dent in their sales.
I will contact BA to see if we can change these two papers on the grounds that they are determined to further damage our industry.

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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 21:13
  #28 (permalink)  
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suspension/dismissal of several BA pilots in 2000
After a lengthy inquiry, examination of the original, and unedited takes. Exactly one BA pilot was sacked. The rest were reinstated.

The editor did a good stitch up job.
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Old 2nd Feb 2003, 21:17
  #29 (permalink)  
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Random breath tests for pilots may not be too far away in the UK. I came across this writeup.. From today.
Funny how these articles multiply...
Now, before anyone shoots the messenger or Mr/Mrs w00t puts words in my mouth, I will copy and paste what's printed. See the link.

10 pints before a flight Feb 2 2003


By Paul Malley, Sunday Mercury

A Midland pilot has lifted the lid on the boozing culture among British airline crews.

The senior captain, who does not want to be named, said pilots and cabin staff regularly drink heavily the night before going on duty - putting passenger lives at risk.

And he claimed the number of crew members ignoring the industry’s ‘zero-tolerance’ alcohol limit was likely to rocket as more turn to booze to cope with increased stress following September 11.

Last week it was revealed that British Airways pilot Simon Robinson, 53, was facing the sack after allegedly failing a breath test just minutes before he was due to fly a passenger jet from Sweden to London.

But the Midland pilot who contacted the Sunday Mercury and who works for a major British airline, said the shock case was just the tip of the iceberg.

“There is absolutely no excuse for drinking before duty,” he said. “The rule is that no booze should be consumed at least eight hours before work and you should only drink in moderation 24 hours before your shift starts.

“The airline industry is in a very precarious position. Airlines are struggling to make money and there have been huge staff cutbacks.

“People are being asked to work longer hours and the increased worry brought on by September 11 has made working in the industry more stressful.

“The problem of pilots and other crew drinking heavily is one that is likely to increase.”

He said that most heavy drinking went on during foreign stopovers, where crews stayed at same hotels and went to the same bars together.

“For many it is part of the culture to knock back eight to 10 pints, get two to three hours kip and then turn up for duty,” said the pilot. “I have seen it first hand.

Breath tests

“A few years ago when I was a first officer I refused to fly with one pilot who turned up at the airport in Paris at 6am, obviously the worse for wear.

“He had been drinking the previous night and didn’t go to bed until 4.15am.”

The Midland pilot is now calling for random breath tests of British pilots to be introduced, as already happens in the United States.

“In the past, BA had said it was considering imposing random breath tests but it never happened,” he said.

“I’m gravely concerned about the drinking culture among airline crews. One or two British pilots a year get caught but for each of those there are probably another 60 or 70 getting away with it.”

The Government recently announced plans to breath-test pilots in cases where there is suspicion or ‘cause’ such as happened in Sweden - but it has stopped short of random testing.

The legal limit for flying is four times less than the British driving limit - or just half a pint.

In the aviation industry any level of alcohol in the blood is taken to mean a pilot is intoxicated and not in full control of an aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it had the power to demand any pilot with a UK licence to undergo a medical assessment if suspected of breaching the zero tolerance alcohol rule.

If a pilot fails the medical, his licence to fly could be withdrawn.

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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 03:10
  #30 (permalink)  
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Knocking back 8 or 10 pints...

And getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep? Wasn't that part of the interview process?

For my UK friends, just wait until the 'highly qualified' security screeners begin smelling your breath and calling security on you like here in the States. I guess making $3.50/hr. qualifies you to make those calls.

BTW, the only bigger drunks than journalists are politicians! TC
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 05:25
  #31 (permalink)  
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Thumbs up

AA717Driver: Good points from you, and many others. Our FAA has always 'closed their eyes' to overnight ops whereby less than four (4) hours of sleep is likely.

Don't even let any TSA personnel get close to you-an arm's length is plenty. But so far, I've found that most of the TSA personnel are a good bit brighter and more educated than most of the previous security folks. But as for prima donna Postal Inspectors or Sherriffs, just why do any of them need to fly with a loaded weapon? Nobody has ever given us an explanation. Maybe it is a manhood issue, and they could go buy themselves some "trim" in Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

And I thought that certain US media stunts were unprofessional. It appears that certain British newspaper managing editors have completely ignored any semblance of a code of ethics (paying mysterious taxi drivers a bit of cash for a quick quote...?).
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 07:52
  #32 (permalink)  
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Just out of interest - why is BALPA opposed to random testing?
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 11:29
  #33 (permalink)  

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Well I think that those pilots were actually quite responsible guys - I mean it would be very silly and dangerous to drive a car while drunk - especially with all those nasty taxi drivers out there!

I mean when they are at work pilots are pretty supernumery anyhow....

I mean the Ops dept and their computers do all the planning, the nice dispatcher type person does all their weight calculations for them, the hosties count the pax and give them the safety spiel, ATC tell them which way to steer and if they are in danger of bumping into anything or anyone else who might be a bit tipsy up there.

The nice shiny airplane can fly them all the way to where they want to go and even land itself at the other end. By which time they should have sobered up enough to manage to steer the thing to the gate, (assuming they haven't spent too much time in the bar enroute) - even that doesn't have to be too accurate as the bridge thingy has wheels and can come to the airplane if need be.

Then the nice man in the crew bus can take them straight to the bar and the lose (wo)men and they can start getting ready for the homeward sector.

So by my reckoning as long as the guys can manage to keep the thing going reasonable straight down the runway, and thats not too important after all its about 200 ft wide, til about 150 knots and get it in the air everything will be just fine.

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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 12:04
  #34 (permalink)  

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So come on Mr Paul Miles, I am sure that you are reading this thread, Log on using your real name and tell us:
3 Airline.
4 Name of Taxi Driver.
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 14:17
  #35 (permalink)  
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phd, either you miss the point or you do not understand the situation correctly.

In the first place, the suspension/dismissal of "several" BA pilots last year was not based upon anything other than highly dubious, circumstantial evidence from an amateur so-called "journalist" who, as was amply demonstrated, had an axe to grind, and a grudge to settle.

You say:-
The objective of the CAA and the airlines should be to ensure that no pilot ever reaches the flight deck with any alcohol in his/her system
Wrong. It is physically impossible to ensure even that a teetotaller reaches the flight deck with no alcohol in his/her system.

Further, your comment that "responsible pilots who know how to drink sensibly and who allow at least 12 hours bottle to throttle, will have nothing to fear" shows breathtaking naďveté. There have already been suggestions that this pilot was set up. You want to assure me that this is not the case?

Finally, there have, as far as I am aware, never been any suggestion in the UK that any incident has occurred after flightcrew checked in "under the influence". There have been a great many incidents, some of them fatal, in which crew have performed poorly through fatigue.

People are very keen to jump on pilots for the very small problem of drink. Politicians (including publicity-hungry MEP's) are less keen to take on the wealth of evidence on fatigue.
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 14:52
  #36 (permalink)  
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The Centre for Sleep Research carried out a study which compared the effects of tiredness on hand-eye coordination, decision-making, memory and speed of responding, compared with the effects of alcohol on the same functions. It is well worth reading.
The final paragraph states that the performance impairment associated with sustained wakefulness across the night are similar to those observed in moderate social drinkers.


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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 15:00
  #37 (permalink)  

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10 pints before a flight

I have just read the article in the Sunday Mercury and my comments concern the Midland pilot:-

1. I'd like to congratulate you on your accelerated promotion from a first officer to senior captain (whatever that is 'cos it's not in Part A) in just a few years.

2. Your refusal to fly with the captain from Paris was correct but how did you know that he was out and about till 0415??

3. I think you've broken your Agreement for Service by talking to the press. It won't take long before "they" catch up with you, given the amount of personal information divulged to the Press.

4. Stick to facts, but then they appear to be a bit thin on the ground and the article wouldn't get printed.

5. I strongly recommend that you engage brain before gob when talking to the Press if you are still hell-bent on talking to them.

These comments are not meant as a personal attack and are aimed at those of you who could be in serious breach of your employment contracts if you go to the press.


Last edited by MaximumPete; 3rd Feb 2003 at 16:45.
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Old 3rd Feb 2003, 22:37
  #38 (permalink)  
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24 hours before your shift starts EH! I havn't heard a commercial pilot call his duty day that before. ? the validity of the surposed informants.
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Old 4th Feb 2003, 01:02
  #39 (permalink)  
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I find it hard to believe that anyone in our profession would turn up for work in the knowledge that they were drunk and unable to perform their duties. I've just never seen it.
However. The Science of alcohol detection is notoriously in-exact. The limit is supposedly set at 2/.2/.02 thingys and yet the only guidance that crews are given is not to drink within 8 hours of reporting for duty. It is also written (somewhere) that you should only drink 'in moderation' within 24 hours of reporting for duty. The term 'in moderation' itself is in-exact.
The fact that you can smell booze on someones breath does not mean that they are drunk and incapable but they MAY be over whatever limit you have set.
We are setting off into a grey area.
Perhaps an idea might be to issue crews with their own breathaliser device so that if they think they may have transgressed slightly over some limit the night before, they can test themselves before turning up for work. That way, if they subsequently get caught by this appalling, in-exact system, they have only themselves to blame.
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Old 4th Feb 2003, 16:17
  #40 (permalink)  

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I couldn’t agree more; if the CAA wish to impose specific alcohol limits it should also provide the means for us to determine what those limits are. CAA issued breathalysers are the only way forward; test yourself prior to going to work, if over the "limit" take the day off.
If my memory serves me correctly the 0.02 limit was imposed as the nearest to zero that can be accurately determined.
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