A Canadian Boeing 737 pilot for Sunwing Airlines was found passed out in the cockpit yesterday morning. Gate and flight crew reported “he was behaving strangely.” His reported blood alcohol level was .24.
“They found him slumped over in the seat. He was the captain,” Calgary Sgt. Paul Stacey told a news conference.
The pilot was escorted from the plane and has been charged with having care and control of an aircraft while being impaired, as well as having a blood-alcohol level exceeding .08 while in care and control of an aircraft.
Stacey said police allege the suspect had three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.
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I’m always skeptical of details reported in the media about aviation-related incidents. Here there’s reporting of the route that the flight was supposed to be taking for the day:
Police said the pilot boarded the Boeing 737 with 99 passengers and six crew members in Calgary, Alberta for a flight that was scheduled to make stops in Regina, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico.
Sunwing flies Boeing 737-800s, so far so good.
However it’s not clear to me that Sunwing flies between Regina and Winnipeg. Air Canada and WestJet do operate regional service (Dash-8s) between Regina and Winnipeg. There is, however, Regina – Cancun service on Saturdays — a 10:15 a.m. flight.
In fact, the flight in question was Sunwing WG595 from Calgary to Regina to Cancun (no stop in Winnipeg ‘before continuing on to Cancun’.
The flight took off from Calgary with a new captain 1 hour 53 minutes late and eventually did make it to Cancun almost 3 hours behind schedule.
Notably, we’ve heard of several incidents of pilots showing up drunk — like this week’s stumbling and slurring Indonesian pilot, two United pilots for the same flight out of Glasgow in August, and an American co-pilot in March — there was even a Denzel Washington movie about this.
However, outside of Denzel, in these incidents the pilots didn’t actually manage to fly. They were caught. Safety procedures are pretty good, and this is one case where ‘see something say something’ works. But that’s because it’s crew seeing something, rather than just passengers.