Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

No jail for US pilot caught in plane over alcohol limit

Erwin Washington
The United Airlines plane was due to take off from Heathrow Airport

A US pilot who was over the alcohol limit as he prepared to take off from Heathrow Airport has been given a 10-month suspended jail sentence.

Erwin Washington, 51, from Lakewood, Colorado, was arrested last November after a colleague smelled alcohol on his breath on the Chicago-bound flight.

A breath test showed the United Airlines pilot was more than three times over the permitted limit to fly.

He admitted the offence at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday.

'Not acceptable'

Washington was due to captain a Boeing 767 on 9 November 2009 with 124 passengers and 11 crew on board.

The court was told the highly experienced pilot, a married father of three, was over the legal alcohol limit as a result of a "miscalculation".

But Judge Sam Katkhuda told him: "This is simply not acceptable, it was entirely voluntary on your part that you consumed alcoholic drink."

He added: "As pilot, you know well that travelling on aircraft not only places special duty on passengers to behave in a reasonable manner, but also places special responsibility on pilots to comply with their duty."

The sentence was suspended for two years.

His counsel told the court that Washington was currently enrolled in a rehab program and United Airlines "wish to retain his services".

A United Airlines statement said: "Safety is our highest priority and we have co-operated fully with the investigation. We continue to provide support as this employee takes responsibility for his actions."



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