Alcoholic Pilot Sentenced To Six Month Suspended Sentence

8 May 2019, 14:25

Copeland was given a suspended sentence on Wednesday.
Copeland was given a suspended sentence on Wednesday. Picture: PA

Alcoholic pilot spared jailed after pleading guilty over attempting to while over the legal alcohol limit.

A court heard that David Copeland had been drinking rum in his hotel room the night before he was due to fly an American Airlines plane from Manchester to Philadelphia.

Copeland was caught when a security officer contacted police over his demeanour and smelling alcohol on him.

Police moved in to hold the flight, as Copeland was preparing for take-off.

The court was told that Copeland's employers were supporting him and he hoped to be able to fly again next year if he successfully completed a treatment programme.

He was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after admitting the charge of performing an aviation function while impaired by drink at an earlier hearing at Manchester Magistrates' Court.

The pilot was breathalysed but the sample failed and a blood test at the police station showed he had 27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his system - over the legal limit of 20.

The court heard that the UK limit for flying was lower than for driving motor vehicles, which is 80, and also lower than the American limit of 40 for flights.

Sentencing, Judge Maurice Greene said that Copeland was an experienced pilot who no doubt has been in this country on a number of occasions before and knows the relevant limit.

"It is a serious offence because of the responsibility you, as the pilot of a commercial airline, hold. You hold the lives of many people in your hands when you get into that plane," the Judge said.

Henry Blackshaw, defending, said that, on the night before his arrest, Copeland had a meal with the rest of the crew and consumed a modest amount of alcohol.

"He treated himself to a nightcap of rum in the hotel room and it seems it was that alcohol in combination with the residue of alcohol from dinnertime which would have, in combination, caused his levels to be over the limit the following morning," he said.

Mr Blackshaw said the pilot had observed the industry's eight-hour "bottle to throttle" rule and had not realised there may still be alcohol in his system.