United Airlines Pilots Arrested in Glasgow for Allegedly Failing a Breath Test

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
August 3, 2019 Updated: August 5, 2019

Two United Airlines pilots about to fly to New York were arrested at Glasgow airport for failing a breath test on July 3. They were immediately removed from service.

The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and have a strict, no-tolerance policy for alcohol,” a United Airlines spokesperson confirmed in an email to The Epoch Times.

The pilots were about to board flight UA 162 at Glasgow bound for Newark.

“These pilots were immediately removed from service and we are fully cooperating with local authorities,” the spokesperson said.

Stock image of a United Airlines plane. (Skeeze/Pixabay)

Police Scotland said it was called to the airport on Saturday at 7:35 a.m. and the two pilots were taken into custody after failing the test, reported local news outlet Herald Scotland.

“Police Scotland can confirm that two men, aged 61 and 45, have been arrested and remain in police custody pending a scheduled court appearance on Tuesday 6 August for alleged offences under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (Section 93),” it said.

The United Airlines spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the flight was subsequently canceled.

“Customers will be provided hotel and meal vouchers and will be rebooked on alternate flights to get to their destination,” the spokesperson said.

Drunk Piloting

Each day, there are 90,000 flights around the world, carrying more than 8 million people. And the overwhelming majority of pilots in those cockpits are sober.

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The Federal Aviation Administration has a process that allows recovering alcoholics back in the cockpit if they pass a medical evaluation and stay clean during monitoring for the next five years. Since the union-backed program started in the 1970s, about 5,300 pilots—more than 100 a year—have gone through rehab and regained their licenses, according to a program official.

U.S. rules prohibit pilots from flying if they have a blood-alcohol content of .04 percent or higher; the United Kingdom has a stricter limit of .02 percent.

Expectations of Pilots

According to the Alchohol and Flying Brochure (pdf) issued by the Aerospace Medical Education Division of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilots are expected to meet strict professional conduct regarding the consumption of alcohol.

“Flying, while fun and exciting, is a precise, demanding, and unforgiving endeavor. Any factor that impairs the pilot’s ability to perform the required tasks during the operation of an aircraft is an invitation for disaster,” said the brochure issued on the FAA’s website.

It says ideally, a complete abstention from alcohol is required with pre-flight planning as well as in the cockpit—around 8 hours for most people. It even says that a more “conservative approach” to safety is to avoid alcohol 24 hours before flying.

“Alcohol avoidance is as critical as developing a flight plan, a good preflight inspection, obeying ATC procedures, and avoiding severe weather,” it said.

The Department of Transportation of FAA says that according to its regulation “each person who performs a safety-sensitive function for a regulated employer by contract, including by subcontract at any tier, is subject to testing.

“These employees are removed from performing these functions if their breath alcohol concentration registers 0.04 or greater on a required alcohol test, or if they otherwise use alcohol in violation of the rule.

FAA makes it mandatory for aviation employees performing safety-sensitive functions to undergo “post-accident tests, random tests, reasonable suspicion tests, return to duty tests, and follow-up tests.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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