WORLD

Drunk Pilot Arrested In Calgary After Passing Out In Cockpit

01/01/2017 7:30 AM AEDT | Updated 01/01/2017 5:06 PM AEDT

A pilot who allegedly passed out drunk in a plane cockpit at the Calgary airport faces two criminal charges.

The male pilot for Sunwing Airlines was found "severely impaired by alcohol" early Saturday morning, Calgary police said in a press release.

The plane's crew noticed that he was acting oddly before he lost consciousness. Police allege the co-pilot found the captain passed out in the cockpit.

"They found him slumped over in the seat. He was the captain," Sgt. Paul Stacey told a news conference.

At the time of the incident, 99 passengers and five other flight crew were already on board.

sunwing airlines

A Sunwing plane lands in Calgary on July 21, 2016.

The 737 800 Series aircraft was scheduled to fly to Regina and Winnipeg, with a final destination of Cancun, Mexico.

"We are very appreciative of our crew’s diligence in handling this very unfortunate matter in accordance with procedures," Sunwing said in a statement. The flight was en route to Cancun with a new captain after a "minimal delay," added the company.

"We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority."

"It had all the potential for a disaster."
— Sgt. Paul Stacey

Miroslav Gronych, 37, of Slovakia has been charged with one count of having control of a plane while impaired, and one count of having control of a plane with a blood alcohol level above .08.

Stacey said police allege the suspect had three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

"It had all the potential for a disaster but I'll tell you this much — the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they're impaired like that is pretty slim, because there's a lot of checks and balances. There's the other flight crew and there's gate crew and they're all about safety," Stacey said.

Transport Canada investigating

Transport Canada spokesman Dan Dugas said in an email that it is a criminal offence in Canada for a flight crew to work within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence.

Dugas said Transport Canada is reviewing the pilot's records and Sunwing Airlines' procedures and protocols.

"As more information becomes available, the department will not hesitate to take enforcement action, including issuing fines and revoking licenses if appropriate. The airline is responsible for taking any disciplinary action against the pilots," the email said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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