France bans United Airlines pilot for one year for showing up at Paris airport drunk

A pilot for United Airlines was given a suspended six-month prison sentence, banned from flying in the E.U. for a year and fined nearly $5,000 by a French court after he showed up for work drunk.

At around 3:55 p.m. Sunday, the U.S. pilot, identified by the French news daily Le Parisien as Henry W., 63, arrived at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport to fly a Boeing 777 to Washington Dulles International Airport and on to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

However, upon being tested for alcohol by airport police in Paris, it was found that the pilot was over the legal blood-alcohol limit.

The French National Gendarmerie, a law enforcement branch of the country’s military, noted in a tweet that he had 1.12 grams of alcohol per liter of blood.

Converted to the customary American measure of grams per 100 milliliters, the BAC was 0.112, nearly three times the 0.04 limit under Federal Aviation Administration regulations and comfortably over even the legal limit for driving a car.

All employees performing a safety-sensitive function such as a pilot is removed from duty if they are found to have a BAC of 0.04 or higher.

The defendant claimed that he had only had two glasses of wine the night before, complying with United rules that drinking is not allowed for pilots within 10 hours of a flight taking off.

The pilot, a 28-year employee of United Airlines and a Navy veteran, also said he had taken thousands of BAC tests over the course of his career with none coming back over the limit. His defense team said that the court was killing his career, with Henry W. just two years from retiring.

Local prosecutors, however, were unmoved in a case that lasted just a couple of days from arrest to conviction.

“You have failed in your duty to set an example. You put 267 passengers at risk,” prosecutor Marina Kieny said in court, according to an account in Le Parisien as translated by Google.

In a statement, United Airlines said that the pilot, whom it did not itself identify, has been removed from service.

“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We hold all our employees to the highest standards and have a strict no-tolerance policy for alcohol,” the airline said.

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