Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Drunk' Flybe pilot removed from plane and arrested moments before take-off, after concerned crew member called police

A pilot was removed from an airplane and arrested on suspicion of drink-driving, just moments before the he was scheduled to take off.

The aircraft was due to fly from Newquay Airport to London Gatwick yesterday morning, but was cancelled causing passengers delays and in some cases missed connections.

A concerned crew member alerted the police, who removed the pilot from the plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop, and breath-tested him.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: 'A 48-year-old man from Crediton, Devon, was arrested on suspicion of being over the drink-drive limit.

'He was taken to Newquay police station. He has been released on police bail until December 8.'

The pilot was named locally as Julian Lowden, who describes himself in an online profile as a pilot and former consultant stress engineer.

A woman who came to the door of his detached, five-bed £400,000 home in Copplestone, Devon, refused to discuss the arrest.

A neighbor said: 'To be honest she knows as much as you. She understands how serious this is.'

Flybe said it is unable to name the pilot in light of the police investigation.

The arrest led to the flight being cancelled and some passengers facing delays of up to five hours.

One traveller missed a connection flight to Mexico from Gatwick because of the delay.

Passengers were told the pilot was 'unwell'.

A Flybe spokesman said: 'Flybe can confirm that one of its pilots volunteered to help the police with their inquiries at Newquay Airport yesterday.

'The airline is not able to comment further while the police investigation is taking place.'

The arrest came the same day as it was announced the low-cost airline would be operating the Newquay to Gatwick route for the next three years.

Retired commercial pilot Andy Wilkins said he'd never heard of a pilot being arrested before a flight. 'It's very rare,' he said.

'I've never heard of my colleagues being tested - I wasn't. But the rules are very strict.

'Pilots are allowed a quarter of the limit for drivers.

'We always followed the adage, 'eight hours from bottle to throttle' - stop drinking at least eight hours before flying. But pilots are human and everyone is different.'

Mr Wilkins added: 'Alcohol stays in the system for different times with different people. There's no regulation testing of pilots that I know of. They're generally very professional.

'But I guess it's down to their colleagues to raise the alert if they have concerns.'

This is not the first instance of a pilot suspected of being under the influence.

Last year, a Pakistani International Airlines pilot was jailed for nine months in Britain for being drunk before he was due to fly a plane with 156 people on board.

Irfan Faiz, 55, was found to have three times the legal amount of alcohol in his blood, prosecutors told Leeds Crown Court.

The father-of-two was asked to leave the cockpit during checks for the flight from Leeds Bradford airport to Islamabad on September 18 because he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet.

In the US, 48 year-old American Eagle pilot, Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, was removed from the cockpit after airline employees detected alcohol on his breath on him at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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