Canadian police have charged a pilot for Sunwing Airlines with impairment after he was allegedly found passed out over his seat before takeoff early Saturday.
Police said the pilot boarded the Boeing 737 with 99 passengers and six crew members in Calgary, Alberta. A flight was scheduled to make stops in Regina, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico.
Gate crew and crew aboard the flight noticed that the 37-year-old was behaving oddly. Then he became unconscious in the cockpit.
The pilot, a Slovakian national in Canada on a work visa, was escorted from the aircraft and taken into custody by police.
Police say initial tests indicated the pilot was severely impaired by alcohol, and three times over the legal limit. “We tested him approximately two hours after we took him into custody and he still blew at that extreme level. So I can’t tell you when he had his last drink but he was pretty high. So it probably wasn’t too long before we took him into custody is my guess,” Sgt. Paul Stacey, with Calgary police, said.
Police said the pilot's name will be released after he has appeared in court.
Sunwing spokeswoman Janine Massey praised the rest of the crew for handling what she called a "very unfortunate matter."
"We can confirm that shortly before 7 a.m. local time, the gate agents, first officer and crew of Sunwing flight 595, departing from Calgary and destined for Cancun, determined that the captain was unfit to fly and reported this accordingly," Massey stated.
Sunwing, a low cost Canadian carrier, said the plane took off a short time later with another captain. "We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority," Massey said.
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.