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Drunk pilot put ‘passengers’ lives in danger’
An airline pilot who admitted being four times over the legal alchohol limit after he was arrested in the cockpit as he was about to fly from Leeds Bradford Airport “put hundreds of lives at risk”, a magistrate said.
Captain Irfan Faiz, 54, pleaded guilty to intending to fly while being impaired by alcohol when he appeared at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
The court heard he arrived at the airport in Yeadon on Wednesday to fly the PK 776 flight to Pakistan when staff noticed he was unsteady on his feet and smelling of drink.
He was arrested after boarding the Airbus 310 to carry out pre-flight checks before heading to Islamabad.
The Pakistan International Airlines plane with 180 passengers on board had been due to leave at 10pm, but no replacement pilot was available and passengers spent the night in a hotel before the flight eventually left 15 hours late.
James McAuley, the chairman of the magistrates’ bench, told Faiz he had breached the trust of the public and his actions could have resulted in “serious loss of life”.
He praised the actions of airport managers who had spotted Faiz’s drunken condition.
Faiz was refused bail and remanded in custody to appear at Leeds Crown Court on October 18 for sentencing.
Magistrates heard heard the drama began when airport managers contacted police who arrested Faiz in the cockpit.
He was charged with ‘carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink’, to which he pleaded guilty.
Mr McAuley told him: “By your actions you breached the trust of the public who must be comfortable that when they travel they are safe to travel.
“The consequences could have been serious loss of life if an accident had occurred.
“Thankfully, the actions of the managers at Leeds Bradford Airport prevented that.”
Martin Townend, prosecuting, stressed the gravity of the offence, stating: “There was a potential that the plane would have been flown by a drunk pilot.”
He added that suspicions had been raised at the airport when “a number of managers noticed Mr Faiz was unsteady on his feet and smelled of intoxicants”.
Yousuf Khan, representing the pilot, asked if the case could be dealt with by the magistrates – which would have meant a maximum possible sentence of six months in prison.
He said: “He is 54 and effectively his career will be over which is, in effect, a punishment as is the shame he will experience when he returns to Pakistan.”
The court heard that Faiz had flown with Pakistan International Airlines for 25 years with an unblemished record, and had no previous convictions.
But the magistrates decided the case was so serious it would have to be sentenced at crown court, and refused to grant bail.
A spokesman for the state-owned airline, which has a no-alcohol policy on its flights, said Faiz faced being sacked when the court proceedings were completed.
“He is already grounded and suspended and after sentencing his career may well be terminated, even if he does appeal. If he does appeal he will do so without any assistance, he would have to fight his own case,” the spokesman said.
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