Pilot for Pakistan International Airlines sentenced to nine months in British jail after testing showed he was four times over the drink-fly limit. Irfan Faiz was arrested in cockpit of flight bound for Islamabad with 156 people on board.
Irfan Faiz, 55, from Pakistan, was held at Leeds Bradford Airport on 18 September.
Faiz had been charged with carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink.
The court heard he gave an initial reading of 41 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath on a police officer’s handheld device.
The legal limit for driving a car is 35 microgrammes, but for flying in the UK it just nine.
He later gave a reading of 28 microgrammes, the court was told.
Faiz told police he had consumed three quarters of a bottle of whisky before the flight, which was due to depart at 22:10 BST.
However, he said he had stopped drinking at about 03:00.
Faiz was an experienced and well-respected pilot with 25 years’ experience and an unblemished record, the court was told.
His 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.
The court heard the defendant is from a prominent family in Pakistan.
Mr Greaney told the judge that, despite being an experienced pilot, Faiz was not aware of the rules about drinking and flying in the UK.
Mr Justice Coulson said he was “astonished” to hear pilots regularly flying out of the UK were not aware of the rules about alcohol consumption, which are based on the amount of alcohol present in the body.
It was “extraordinary” that the rules in Pakistan only stated there should be a 12-hour gap between “bottle and throttle”, no matter how much the pilot had drunk, the judge said.
He added: “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.
“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.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines said “further action” would be taken against Faiz once he had completed his sentence in the UK.
“The maximum sentence is termination from service,” he said.