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United Airlines Pilot Charged With Being Over Alcohol Limit

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 12:24 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Pilots, DUI, United Airlines, Drunk Pilots, Aviation Mishap, Sullenberger

A United pilot is arrested for being over the alcohol limit as he boards a Boeing 767 with 135 passengers onboard.


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons Web site / United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at Heathrow/ author: Adrian Pingstone

135 Passenbers Waiting

A United Airlines Pilot has been charged with the pilots’ version of DUI after allegedly having too much alcohol in his system.

Pilot Erwin Vermont Washington, 51, failed a breathalyzer test shortly before he was due to take off from London’s Heathrow Airport.

Flight 949 was full of passengers on their way to Chicago Monday just after noon when a member of the staff reported him to authorities on the condition of anonymity.

Washington was removed as he was attempting to board the Boeing 767 with 135 people aboard.

Washington is the third U.S. pilot in 13 months to be arrested for being over the strict alcohol limits imposed by the airline.

The good news is the system worked to detect such behavior. Under British law, the limit is 20 micrograms of alcohol for each 100 milliliters of blood, reports Associated Press, and that is the equivalent of a half glass of regular strength beer.

U.S. federal regulations prohibit flying if blood alcohol concentration is at or above 0.04. For pilots who do consume alcohol, United has a 12 hour “bottle-to-throttle” policy.

The passengers were put on different flights to Chicago.

Washington is out on bail and has been removed from service. He will have to appear in court in London on November 20 from his home in Colorado. He could face up to two years in prison and a fine.

The Chicago Tribune reports that during the London stop, pilots’ bodies are set on North American time and drinking is one thing to do.

What’s Happening in Aviation?

Last October, an American Airlines pilot, also at Heathrow on a flight to Chicago, failed a breath test. Another United pilot was arrested for being over the alcohol limit.

In October, a Delta Air Lines pilots landed their Boeing 767 on an active taxiway in Atlanta, and two days later two Northwest Airlines pilots overflew their destination of Minneapolis as they allegedly poured over their laptops.

A United pilot tells the Chicago Tribune that the near-disasters indicate an “industry that is running on the ragged edge….It’s completely different life than people think.”

The airlines have not completely recovered since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

After Capt. Chesley Sullenberger successfully brought a US Airways plane down into the Hudson River earlier this year, he tried to advocate for pilots who have seen their duty hours increase while their pay and pensions have declined and disappeared.

Mishaps are rare but many fear with the airline industry’s bottom line mentality that airline pilots who are outstanding “old school” professionals such as Captain Sullenberger may be a thing of the past. #

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