LONDON: An experienced British Airways pilot’s career is “up in smoke” after he was jailed for eight months for being caught on duty while more than four times the alcohol limit. Julian Monaghan drank three double vodkas and diet Pepsi in his hotel room on an empty stomach before he was due on board a long-haul flight from Gatwick Airport to Mauritius on January 18.
Police were called when technician Verity McAllen, who was checking the Boeing 777 before take off, noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Monaghan’s breath. Passengers had already started to board when he was taken from the cockpit in handcuffs on suspicion of reporting for duty as a pilot while his level of alcohol was over the limit.
Some 300 people were on the 12-hour flight, which was scheduled to leave at 9.20pm but was delayed for nearly two hours while a replacement pilot was found. It eventually left at around 11pm. The 49-year-old pleaded guilty after tests revealed he had 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system – more than four times the 20mg limit for a pilot.
Monaghan, who worked for BA for 17 years, initially queried the results, but resigned two months after his arrest when further tests confirmed the samples were accurate. Sentencing him to eight months behind bars at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Janet Waddicor said: “You took a risk and it didn’t pay off because you were caught. You are in charge of a huge aircraft. The safety, if not the lives, indeed, of passengers and crew members are in the hands of the pilot. They are entitled to feel that they are safe.”