Julian Monaghan was more than four times the limit for a pilot
A British Airways pilot who drank three double vodkas on an empty stomach hours before he was due to take off has been jailed for eight months.
Julian Monaghan (49) was taken from the cockpit of his Boeing 777 in handcuffs, after some of his 300 passengers had begun to board at London's Gatwick Airport on January 18th.
Police were alerted after technician Verity McAllen, who had been checking the Boeing 777 prior to its departure for Mauritius, smelt alcohol on Monaghan's breath.
He insisted he had stuck to the airline's eight hour "bottle to throttle rule" and "felt fine".
But tests revealed he had 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system - more than four times the 20mg limit for a pilot.
Amy Packham, prosecuting, said the reading taken at 10.30pm remained so high that he must have drunk a "significant amount" just before the eight-hour limit.
Emlyn Jones, defending, said that while four times over the limit sounded "terrible", Monaghan was "not falling down drunk, making mistakes, being rude, picking fights".
Monaghan, who initially queried the test results, resigned two months after being arrested when further tests confirmed they were accurate.
Sentencing him at Lewes Crown Court, Judge Janet Waddicor told him he had taken a "risk" that "didn't pay off because you were caught".
"You are in charge of a huge aircraft. The safety, if not the lives, indeed, of passengers and crew members are in the hands of the pilot," she added.
"They are entitled to feel that they are safe."
The flight, which was delayed for almost two hours, had been due to take off at 9.20pm.
Monaghan, who worked at the airline for 17 years, had drunk a "measure" of vodka with diet Pepsi in a hotel at around 10.15am, over the course of an hour, but nothing after.
Mr Jones said Monaghan remembered drinking three miniature bottles of vodka. Each is equivalent to a double bar serving.
The night before, Monaghan had been on an overnight flight from Cape Town to Heathrow, during which he drank a glass of red wine.
Mr Jones said Monaghan's "career and livelihood and personal and professional reputation are all up in smoke".
"Certainly he will never fly as a commercial pilot again," he added.
"He appears before your honour as a shadow of the man he once was."
Mr Jones said Monaghan bitterly regretted his actions and wanted to apologise to the court, the public, passengers and his family.