Drunk pilot jailed for being four times the limit

Julian Monaghan arriving at court. Photo by Eddie Mitchell
Julian Monaghan arriving at court. Photo by Eddie Mitchell

An airline pilot was more than four times the legal alcohol limit moments before a flight he was due to be working took off from Gatwick Airport.

Julian Monaghan ‘potentially put the lives of more than 200 people at risk’ after turning up to work drunk on the evening of January 18.

Police said he was arrested ten minutes before the British Airways Boeing 777 to Mauritius was due to take off.

He was found to have 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system - the legal limit is 20mg - and was charged with performing an ancillary activity to an aviation function.

Although he was not due to fly the vehicle Sussex Police said he was still an active member of the crew and could have been called upon to fly in an emergency.

The 49-year-old, from South Africa, pleaded guilty at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on June 6. He was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court today (June 12) to eight months’ in jail – reduced from 12 months due to his early guilty plea.

Detective Constable Stuart Macpherson, the officer in charge of the case, said: “Monaghan was reported to us through the diligence and integrity of the aircraft technician who smelt alcohol on his breath and alerted the authorities as appropriate.

“Although he offered mitigating circumstances and was not an operating pilot on the day in question, he was still an active member of the flight deck and could have been called upon at any moment. Therefore his mitigation does not alter the fact that he potentially put the lives of more than 200 people at risk.

“There are no laybys at 30,000ft and has Monaghan been required to take control of the aircraft in the event of an emergency on the flight deck in the early stages of the flight, his judgement and abilities would have been impaired.”

Senior Crown Prosecutor Alice Trodden, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “The defendant was four times over the prescribed alcohol limit when he reported for duty as first officer for the flight.

“The defendant was arrested just 10 minutes before the flight was due to push back and the potential consequences, had he been required to take control of the plane while impaired in the event of an emergency, cannot be underestimated.

“In the face of the overwhelming evidence put forward by the police and CPS, the defendant pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.”