A Pakistani pilot has been jailed for nine months in Britain for being drunk before he was due to fly a plane with 156 people on board.
Irfan Faiz, 55, was found to have three times the legal amount of alcohol in his blood, prosecutors told Leeds Crown Court.
The father-of-two was asked to leave the cockpit during checks for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Leeds Bradford airport to Islamabad on September 18 because he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet.
Faiz told police he had drunk three quarters of a bottle of whisky but had stopped drinking at about 3am, some 19 hours ahead of the planned take-off of the Airbus 310.
His behaviour would have been permitted in Pakistan, where the rules state only that there should be 12 hours between “bottle and throttle” no matter how much the pilot had drunk, the court heard.
Mr Justice Coulson described Pakistan’s rules as “extraordinary” and said he was “astonished” to hear that pilots regularly flying out of Britain did not know about the far stricter regulations there.
Faiz’s barrister, Paul Greaney QC, told the court that, despite having 25 years’ experience as a pilot, Faiz was not aware of the drink-fly rules in the UK.
The judge said: “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.”
In Britain, pilots are permitted nine microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath tested, well below the 35 microgrammes allowed to drive a car.
Faiz initially gave a reading of 41 but a later test recorded 28.
Mr Greaney also told the judge that Faiz 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.
Retired PIA pilot Shahid Hussain told the court: “He’s got a very good character. He’s very upright, outspoken, straightforward. Good in his profession and a good friend.”