A former British Airways pilot had been informed there is a 'very, very high chance' he will go to prison after admitting to being drunk on duty at Gatwick Airport. Julian Monaghan, 49, turned up at work on January 18th five times over the legal limit and tried to start his shift as a pilot when drunk. Police were called and he was arrested, testing at 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system. The legal limit for a pilot is 20mg. He admitted being drunk and eventually plead guilty at Crawley Magistrates’ Court, where his defence lawyer, Emlyn Jones, told the court he had consumed a vodka and coke at 10.30am that day. There is an eight hour prohibition on the consumption of alcohol before turning up to duty, known as the 'bottle to throttle' rule.
Emlyn Jones said: "He was not due to take up his responsibilities as pilot of the plane on take-off. He would not have been charged with taking up the role of pilot until three- and-a-half hours into the flight." Monaghan had apparently drank the alcohol on an overnight flight as a passenger the night before and had not slept or eaten since then. "He turned up for work appalled, astonished and horrified that he was still over the limit." Jones also argued that his client was only fractionally over the drink-drive limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood, he was not aggressively drunk and no actual harm was ever caused so a custodial sentence did not fit the crime. Char of the bench Dr David Wiggins refused to accept his argument, stating "I have to say the comparison to drink-driving is somewhat spurious in these circumstances."
"A pilot in a Boeing 777 is somewhat different from driving on the road, so we are completely ignoring that comment. I think you need to prepare yourself there is a very, very high chance that it will be an immediate custodial sentence." Undeterred, Jones went on to ask the court to sentence his client on Wednesday: "He has thrown away the only career he has ever known. He has been a pilot his whole life, and that has gone." The 12-hour flight, from London to Mauritius, was scheduled to leave at 8.20pm, but the plane was grounded while airline staff looked for a third pilot. Monaghan will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on June 12.
A spokeswoman for British Airways said: "This behaviour is completely unacceptable and not what we expect from our highly professional fleet of pilots. The safety and security of our customers and colleagues is always our top priority."