Cape Town pilot jailed after arriving drunk for Mauritius flight
A British Airways pilot who lives in Cape Town has been jailed in the UK after arriving drunk to fly 300 passengers to Mauritius.
After serving his eight-month sentence‚ Julian Monaghan‚ 49‚ hopes to find work in South Africa by retraining as a drone pilot to take pictures of homes for estate agents.
Monaghan was removed from a Boeing 777 by armed police in January after failing a breath test in the cockpit. Ten minutes later he was due to fly 300 passengers from London to Mauritius.
Monaghan had flown to London from Cape Town overnight‚ and spent the day drinking vodka at a hotel near Gatwick airport. Police boarded his plane after an airport technician reported smelling alcohol on his breath.
British Airways rules prohibit staff from drinking eight hours before work. Monaghan resigned from the airline before he was jailed on Tuesday at Lewes Crown Court in Sussex.
Judge Janet Waddicor said Monaghan’s alcohol level was four times the limit for pilots.
“The limits are pitched deliberately low because of the responsibility which attaches to the job. The lives of the people on board are in the hands of the pilot‚” she told Monaghan.
“The people who live on the flight path are entitled to feel they are safe. It may be you would have got away with it because you say you weren’t aware you were over the limit.
“You say you were staggered at the reading and when the police reading was confirmed you resigned.”
British Airways was warned seven years ago that Monaghan posed a safety risk after he was involved in a drunken argument in a bar.
The airline said it was an isolated incident and did not constitute a warning he was unfit to fly planes.
Monaghan admitted he started drinking at 10.15am in his hotel room at Gatwick after flying into London Heathrow overnight from South Africa. He drank three miniature bottles of vodka‚ mixed with coke‚ before he was due to be a pilot on the 9.20pm flight.
Defence lawyer Emily Jones said Monaghan had lost everything. He would never fly commercially again‚ and offered an unreserved apology to the passengers and his family‚ she said.
Monaghan‚ who divides his time between Cape Town and London‚ admitted being over the limit when he appeared at Crawley Magistrates' Court on June 6 and was sent to Lewes Crown Court for sentencing.