US pilot admits drink charge

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The Independent Online

An American pilot today admitted turning up to fly out of Heathrow Airport while over the alcohol limit.

Erwin Washington, 51, of Lakewood, Colorado, had been due to captain a Boeing 767 bound for Chicago with 124 passengers on board and 11 crew members when a colleague smelled alcohol on his breath.

He pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court to being above the alcohol limit for flying a plane.

The United Airlines pilot was arrested at Heathrow on November 9 last year.

The Boeing 767 departure to Chicago was "imminent" when police arrived.

Washington will be sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on February 5. He was released on unconditional bail.

A breath test showed Washington was more than three times the limit allowed to fly a plane.

He recorded a reading of 31 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath - the legal limit being nine micrograms.

Kevin Christie, prosecuting, told the court two policemen attended the airport to tell Washington of the allegation after suspicions were raised.

They performed a breath test especially designed for aviation staff, which he failed.

Mr Christie said: "Mr Washington was arrested as it was believed he had reported for work and had intended to fly the aircraft in the role of captain."

When arrested, Washington, who has a military record, replied: "Okay, fine."

A blood test revealed he had 50 milligrams in 100ml of blood. The limit for pilots is 20 milligrams. In comparison, the legal limit for driving a car is 80 milligrams.

Chris Humphreys, defending, said Washington was "remorseful for events".