A United Airlines pilot was this week arrested for allegedly consuming too much alcohol before entering the cockpit. The arrest was the latest in a string of incidents concerning airline pilots and intoxication.
Erwin Vermont Washington was ready to take off with 124 passengers aboard his United Airlines flight from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for Chicago. However, Washington was relieved of his position at the final moment and suspended immediately by United. He now faces the possibility of up to two years inside a British jail if he is convicted on criminal charges. Washington becomes the third pilot from the United States to be arrested over the past 13 months for charges related to alcohol.
Last month, two Northwest Airlines were alleged to have been sleeping on the job when they missed their runway by over 100 miles in Minneapolis. The men claimed they had initially been arguing and then using their laptops at the time.
An American Airlines pilot was arrested earlier this year in May at Heathrow and charged with alcohol related offences, the same charge applied to an additional United Airlines pilot in October 2008. In January a Southwest Airlines pilot was suspended after turning up to fly reeking of alcohol.
The US Federal Aviation Administration allows pilots to have a 0.04 blood alcohol level, around half that of the driving limit. No pilot is allowed to consume any alcohol in the eight hours before their flight.
In the UK, the rules are even more stringent with a limit of 0.02, around one drink.