Judge Astonished Only 12 Hours Between ‘Bottle and Throttle’ for Pilots

Telegraph (London), November 22, 2013

A pilot has been jailed after attempted to fly 156 people to Pakistan despite being three times over the alcohol limit, a court heard, as a judge warned foreign pilots may regularly be flying in Britain drunk.

Irfan Faiz, 55, was found to be over the legal alcohol level after undergoing a breath test during preflight checks in the cockpit of an Airbus at Leeds Bradford Airport.

He admitted at the time he had consumed three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey but claimed he was alright to fly because he had stopped drinking 12 hours from “bottle to throttle”.

Guidance under Pakistan flight rules states this is an appropriate amount of time to leave between drinking and flying, regardless of how much alcohol is consumed, the court heard.

Sentencing Faiz to nine months in prison at Leeds Crown Court, Mr Justice Coulson said it was ”extraordinary” that rules in Pakistan only state there should be a 12-hour gap.

He added that he was ”astonished” to hear that pilots regularly flying out of the UK were not aware of the rules in this country, which are based on the amount of alcohol present in the body.

Faiz, a father of two, was breath-tested on September 18 as he was undergoing preflight checks in an Airbus 310 with 145 passengers and 11 crew on board.

He was about to pilot the Pakistan International Airlines 776 flight to Islamabad when he was asked to leave the cockpit due to concerns raised by security staff who said he smelled of drink and was unsteady on his feet.

Faiz gave an initial reading of 41 microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath on the police officer’s hand-held device. The legal limit for driving a car is 35 microgrammes but for flying in the UK it just nine, the court heard.

He later gave a reading on the evidential machine of 28.

The pilot told police he had consumed three-quarters of a bottle of whisky but had stopped drinking at about 3am. He was arrested before the flight which was due to depart at 10.10pm.

Faiz’s barrister, Paul Greaney QC, told the court his client was not a heavy drinker but was under a lot of stress at the time because of a kidnap threat against his family back home.

The court heard that the defendant is from a prominent family in Pakistan.

Mr Greaney also told the judge that, despite being an experienced pilot, Faiz was not aware of the drink-fly rules in the UK.

He called retired PIA pilot Shahid Hussain into the witness box to explain that the rules in Pakistan are that there must be a 12-hour gap between ”bottle and throttle”.

Captain Hussain said the rule used to be only eight hours.

Mr Justice Coulson said: ”I find it extraordinary that rules of conduct relating to pilots drinking can encompass any amount of alcohol providing there is an amount of time, now 12 hours, before a pilot flies.

”I consider this to be an extraordinarily inadequate way to try to prevent pilots drinking in a way that would not endanger their passengers.”

He added: ”It is, of course, astonishing, that pilots regularly flying from the UK are not aware of the rules that relate to their own conduct.”

The judge told Faiz: ”This has been a high-profile case, attracting a good deal of media interest.

”It is important that the sentence I pass carries the important message that, in general terms, airline pilots who are in drink when they are about to fly will go to prison.

”This is a very serious offence. If he had not been stopped, he would have flown the aircraft to Islamabad. That could have had potential catastrophic consequences.”

The judge concluded: ”Many people find flying a difficult and nervous ordeal at the best of times. They need to have absolute confidence in their safety and security.”

The court heard that Faiz was an experienced and well-respected pilot with 25 years’ experience and an unblemished record.

Captain Hussain said of him: ”He’s got a very good character. He’s very upright, outspoken, straightforward. Good in his profession and a good friend.”

Faiz admitted a charge of carrying out an ancillary aviation function while impaired by alcohol, contrary to the Railways and Transport Act 2003, at a previous hearing.

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • evilsandmich

    I thought Muslims would cut your tongue out or something for drinking alcohol?

    • T_Losan

      Oddly enough, Pakistan has a brewing company, Murree, which produces beer for domestic consumption and which gets decent reviews.

    • Spartacus

      That’s in arab and most black muslim countries. Iran, and the ones in southern and central Asia are usually less strict about alcohol.

      • M.

        It’s legal in north Africa too. Although very frowned-upon by society.

        • This is ironic, because in Ancient Rome, Algerian and Tunisian wines were well-liked and in high demand.

      • I knew some upper-class Iranian emigrants in California as a university undergrad. They drank alcohol just like normal people, the women did not cover their hair, and for some reason, they all liked bowling.

      • dd121

        The Koran mentions “wine”. I know turks who are two fisted hard-liquor drinkers and don’t feel like they’re violating the rules of the Koran.

  • Spartacus

    They should’ve let him fly…

  • CoweringCoward

    Never flown drunk, generally the boozing comes after drunk looking landing.

  • IstvanIN

    Good golly, assuming a bottle is one litre then that man had 25 ounces of booze! And he thought he was OK to fly? If the plane was full of Pakis I might be OK with it.

    • The Final Solution

      Even if it wasn’t any white person flying to Pakistan should stay there permanently. A plane full of liberal democrats no doubt. Maybe Angelina Jolie and her multiethnic horde…

  • In my own experience with Muslims, the ones among them who do drink, don’t take it seriously enough. I suspect the blanket cultural condemnation of alcohol consumption is part of the problem; someone willing to violate one of their own religious strictures in this fashion isn’t going to worry as much about other consequences.

    • M.

      Yeah, the probably think they’re going to Hell anyway, so what the hell!

      • I wouldn’t quite go that far; the problem may simply be that considering alcohol consumption “haram: end-of-story” does not provide fertile ground in which potentially problem drinking can be managed, in spite of the fact that management of any behavior that *might* be destructive is the name of the game.

        Killing 3/4 of even a 375 ml bottle of whiskey, just for the sake of getting plastered is not responsible drinking, whether one intends to fly an airplane, operate a ground vehicle, or simply stay home. Drinking habits ought to be very much on the mind of a regular consumer of alcohol, because one’s habits – when one drinks, why, what, and with whom – will go a very long way toward determining whether it becomes a problem and what sort of trouble arises.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    Stuff like this really makes me angry. Other than becoming a doctor, becoming a pilot is the other profession that I would rather nonwhites not be allowed to fill in white countries.

    • Since any international flight originates in one of the two countries involved: either that of origin or destination, this problem is not easily solved, except by breath-testing the flight crew.

      Competency testing is a more complicated matter, and probably also “racist”.

  • The Final Solution

    What seems rational to me is that the drinking policy should be of the same standard as it is in England before any foreign pilots be allowed to even fly there. I guess that would make too much sense in insane England. They ought to impose sanctions and declare war….

    • A simple warning to travellers using Pakistan International Airlines: “Danger, drunk Muslim hypocrites fly these aircraft” would probably be sufficient.

  • Johnny99

    Didn’t they see the Denzel movie “Flight”? Alcohol gives minorities, esp. blacks, magical abilities to fly airplanes. No sleep, drunk, coked up, and still manages to save most of the passengers, while 10 other pilots, sober, I’m guessing, couldn’t do it in a simulator. I want a drunken bantu pilot the next time I fly.

  • Canadian Boer

    The BAC limit for flying is .04%, half that of driving, due to the increased effects of alcohol at altitude. So even if one hasn’t drunk any alcohol a 8-12 hours before flying they could still exceed the limits.

    • Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

      It isn’t merely blood-alcohol content, but also blood-oxygen content. One of my older friends was a carrier pilot, and he flew missions over Korea while drunk. He switched to oxygen for the catapult shot, did his job, and then landed on the damned carrier. He was drunk again fairly quickly each time after going off oxygen. My own capacity for alcohol at sea level in Japan is legendary.

      Where did Roy’s alcohol come from? Torpedo fuel was 190 proof ethanol.

  • William_JD

    Well, if they didn’t like vices like alcohol and porn, there wouldn’t be any need to prohibit them.

  • skykingjwc

    Well in America it’s 8 hours. FAR 91.17. I am ‘astonished’ this judge didn’t know this, since it sounds like he’s an expert in everything.