United Airlines pilot gets suspended sentence for drinking on job

LONDON (AP) - Erwin Vermont Washington was removed from a plane at London's Heathrow Airport shortly before it was due to take off for Chicago...

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LONDON (AP) — A United Airlines pilot received a 10-month suspended jail sentence on Friday for showing up to fly a jet on a trans-Atlantic flight while over the alcohol limit.

Erwin Vermont Washington of Lakewood, Colorado, was removed from a plane at London’s Heathrow Airport shortly before it was due to take off for Chicago in November, after a colleague smelled alcohol on his breath.

A breath test found he was three times over Britain’s legal alcohol limit for pilots.

A blood test conducted soon after showed that Washington had a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. In Britain the limit for pilots is 0.02 percent. The legal limit for driving a car is 0.08 percent.

The 51-year-old pilot pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Defense lawyer Neil Fitzgibbon said Washington was sorry for his actions.

“He regrets it, his entire future career is on the line, that miscalculation is a penalty he must pay,” he said.

A judge at Isleworth Crown Court in west London said Washington’s behavior was “simply not acceptable.”

“As a pilot, you know well that traveling on aircraft not only places special duty on passengers to behave in a reasonable manner, but also places special responsibility on pilots to comply with their duty,” Judge Sam Katkhuda said.

Fitzgibbon told the court that Washington was currently enrolled in a rehab program, and United Airlines “wish to retain his services.”

United Airlines said in a statement that it would “continue to provide support as this employee takes responsibility for his actions.”