Pilot almost Flew Plane while Drunk

A careless pilot was caught over the legal booze limit at an airport minutes before he was due to fly to the US.

David Copeland, 62, was the captain of an American Airlines flight bound for Philadelphia, which was due to leave Manchester Airport on February 7.

But security worker Jordon Fletcher smelled alcohol on the US citizen’s breath as he spoke to him when he passed through checks at Birmingham Airport.

Mr Fletcher alerted a senior colleague and police were called to gate five in Terminal 3, Manchester Evening News says.

Copeland, who was already in the cockpit, was discreetly taken from the aircraft. The flight had to be cancelled.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard a breath test recorded a reading of an “air fail”, which prompted officers to take the pilot to a police station.

He then blew a reading of 27 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit to perform an aviation function is 20.

Copeland today admitted one count of performing an aviation function while impaired by drink.But the defendant, from Momurray, Pennsylvania, will be sentenced at a later date.

District Judge Mark Hadfield deemed the case too serious for JPs and has adjourned proceedings for Manchester Crown Court.

He declined a request from Copeland’s defence, who asked for the matter to be dealt with immediately on the grounds that the reading was only just over the legal limit.

Judge Hadfield said: “Given the risk that was taken, the numerous passengers on board put at risk, in my view it’s far too serious, bearing in mind the sentencing power of this court.”

Copeland’s sentencing will be on May 8.

Speaking at he time, an American Airlines spokeswoman said: “American Airlines is aware of an incident involving a member of its crew at Manchester Airport earlier this morning.

“The employee was detained and the flight, AA735 to Philadelphia, has been cancelled. Safety is our highest priority and we apologise to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans, we have rebooked them on alternative flights.

“We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement and further questions should be referred to them.”

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