Over-the-limit transatlantic pilot walks free

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The Independent Online

An American pilot who turned up at Heathrow Airport to fly a transatlantic jet while over the alcohol limit avoided a jail sentence today.

Captain Erwin Vermont Washington, 51, was given a tenth month suspended sentence at London's Isleworth Crown Court.

Washington was charged after a concerned colleague who smelled alcohol on his breath reported him to police.

There were 124 passengers and 11 crew members on board flight UA949 to Chicago and the departure of the United Airlines Boeing 767 was "imminent" when officers arrived at Terminal One.

Sentencing him Judge Sam Katkhuda said his behaviour was "simply not acceptable".

Washington of Lakewood, Colorado, was found to have more than double the amount of alcohol in his blood for flying when he was tested on 9 November last year.

The court was told the highly experienced pilot, a married father of three, was over the legal alcohol limit as a result of a "miscalculation".

But Judge Katkhuda told him: "This is simply not acceptable, it was entirely voluntary on your part that you consumed alcoholic drink."

He added: "As pilot, you know well that travelling on aircraft not only places special duty on passengers to behave in a reasonable manner, but also places special responsibility on pilots to comply with their duty.

"When you arrived to take control of this flight for Atlantic Airlines to Chicago the air crew noticed alcohol on your breath and were disturbed enough to report the matter to airport authorities."