Two United Airlines pilots from the US have been arrested in Scotland by police for being under the influence of alcohol, shortly before flying a transatlantic passenger jet from Glasgow to the US.
Police arrested the two men, aged 35 and 45, on Saturday morning, before boarding a 141-passenger United Airlines flight to Newark, New Jersey, which was scheduled to take off from Glasgow airport at 9 AM.
“Police Scotland can confirm that two men aged 35 and 45 have been arrested and are presently detained in police custody in connection with alleged offences under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, section 93,” a police spokesman said.
The section he was referring to concerns pilots who attempt to fly planes while exceeding the prescribed limit of alcohol.
“A person commits an offence if he performs an aviation function at a time when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or he carries out an activity which is ancillary to an aviation function at a time when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit,” the act reads.
The law has limited the amount of alcohol in a pilot’s breath to 9μg of alcohol in 100ml.
United Airlines confirmed the incident and said it would offer full cooperation to Scottish authorities while performing its own investigations about the case.
United Airlines, a major American airline headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is the world's largest airline when measured by number of destinations served.
“The two pilots have been removed from service and their flying duties. We are cooperating with the authorities and will conduct our own investigation as well. The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority,” said the airline’s spokesman.
The pilots would appear before a Scottish court on Monday. Their plane departed with new pilots on Saturday evening, after a 10-hour delay.
Aviation expert Martin Greenfield told the UK’s Daily Mirror that the air crew’s “misjudgment” should be faced with “heavy sanctions both in terms of the law and their career.”
“It’s all about safety – this must be paramount at all times. I personally would have no sympathy with any pilot who would take a chance with their alcohol level,” the expert added.