Two pilots with Montreal-based airline carrier Air Transat have been arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol.
The men were set to operate a flight from Glasgow International Airport to Toronto on Monday morning, but local police officers pulled the two from the cockpit just moments before takeoff.
Both pilots—aged 37 and 39—were scheduled to be charged Tuesday in Paisley Sheriff Court.
Due to the arrest, the flight was delayed for more than 20 hours, according to passengers who shared details on Twitter.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman, who chose to remain anonymous, told The New York Times
that under Scotland’s law, even a “wee bit” of alcohol could result in prosecution. She elaborated, saying that a pilot cannot exceed nine micrograms of alcohol in 100 millimetres of breath on a breathalyzer test. Those who violate the law could face up to two years in prison, she said.
“We will await the results of the investigation and judicial proceedings before commenting on the matter, before making any further comments,” said Air Transat in an official statement. “The safety of our crews and passengers is, and will remain, a top priority at Air Transat.”
Safety and insurance director Paul Hayes of aviation consultancy Ascend said that alcohol has hardly been cited as a reason for plane crashes.
Prior to this incident, there have only been two cases in recent memory where pilots were convicted of flying under the influence, reported The New York Times
Russian prosecutors determined in 2010 that a pilot’s inebriety contributed to the 2008 crash of a Boeing 737 in Russia. The accident claimed the lives of all 88 passengers and crew.
In 1990, three former Northwest Airlines pilots were convicted by a federal jury in Minneapolis of operating a jet under the influence of alcohol. This case appears to be the first documented conviction for drunken flying.
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