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'Drunk' United Airlines Pilot Walks Free

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reports a  - has received a 10-month suspended jail sentence for "performing an aviation function whilst exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit."

The police arrested Mr. Washington last November after a colleague smelled alcohol on his breath as he prepared to captain a Chicago-bound flight from Heathrow Airport.  A breath test showed the pilot was more than three times over the permitted alcohol limit.  He was due to fly a Boeing 767 aircraft with 124 passengers and 11 crew members on board.

Mr. Washington has since enrolled in a substance abuse rehabilitation program.

He pleaded guilty to exceeding the alcohol limit at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday.

Sentencing him, Judge Sam Katkhuda said his behaviour was "simply not acceptable."  "As a pilot, you know full well that travelling on aircraft not only places a special duty on passengers to behave in a reasonable manner, but also places a special responsibility on pilots."

The court took on board the fact that Mr. Washington pled guilty and took steps to seek treatment, however, and suspended his 10-month sentence for two years.

According to BBC News, United Airlines intend to retain the pilot's services.

The airline issued a statement saying: "Safety is our highest priority and we have co-operated fully with the investigation.  We continue to provide support as this employee takes responsibility for his actions."

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