Pilot jailed for being drunk in cockpit of plane

Irfan Faiz of PIA Pakistan International Airways. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Irfan Faiz of PIA Pakistan International Airways. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

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A pilot who admitted being over the legal alcohol limit to fly after being arrested in the cockpit of a plane at Leeds Bradford Airport has been jailed for nine months.

A court heard a member of security staff at the airport described how Irfan Faiz, 54, appeared to be staggering and unsteady on his feet shortly before he boarded the Pakistan International Airlines plane to Islamabad.

A judge yesterday say he found it “extraordinary” after hearing that the airline’s rules stated there should be a 12 hour gap between “bottle and throttle”, no matter how much the pilot had drunk.

Leeds Crown Court heard Fiaz had three quarters of a bottle of whisky before the flight, which was due to depart at 10.10pm on September 18 last year.

After his arrest Faiz, from Pakistan, said he had stopped drinking at 3am that day.

The court heard he gave an initial reading of 41 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath on a police officer’s handheld device.

The legal limit for driving a car is 35 microgrammes, but for flying in the UK it is just nine. He later gave a reading of 28 microgrammes, the court was told.

He pleaded guilty to carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink. His barrister, Paul Greaney QC, told the court his client was not a heavy drinker but was under a lot of stress at the time because of a kidnap threat against his family.

The court heard the defendant is from a prominent family in Pakistan.Mr Greaney told the judge that, despite being an experienced pilot, Faiz was not aware of the rules about drinking and flying in the UK.

The barrister said Faiz was an experienced and well-respected pilot with 25 years’ experience and an unblemished record, the court was told.

Mr Justice Coulson said he was “astonished” to hear pilots regularly flying out of the UK were not aware of the rules about alcohol consumption.

He added: “This is a very serious offence. If he had not been stopped, he would have flown the aircraft to Islamabad. That could have had potential catastrophic consequences. Many people find flying a difficult and nervous ordeal at the best of times. They need to have absolute confidence in their safety and security.”

Faiz’s legal team plans to appeal against his sentence.

Paul Pilotille.

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