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French court sentences US pilot for showing up drunk to work

The Local France
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French court sentences US pilot for showing up drunk to work
A traveler walks past a United Airlines aircraft. Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP

A court in Paris has sentenced a pilot for US airline United, who tested positive for alcohol when he was scheduled to fly a plane from Charles de Gaulle airport.

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The 63-year-old pilot was breathalysed by police at Charles de Gaulle airport shortly before he was due to fly a United Airlines plane to Washington Dulles airport (not Dallas, Texas, as initially reported in French media).

He recorded an alcohol level three times that of the permitted legal limit for pilots in Europe.

On Tuesday, the court at Bobigny, outside Paris, sentenced him to a six-month suspended prison term.  

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The pilot, named in French media as Henry W, told the court he had only had two glasses of wine the night before, but the court heard that gendarmes observed he was "showing signs of obvious drunkenness" when he showed up at the airport at 3pm on Sunday, July 23rd.

"He was staggering slightly, his eyes were glassy and his mouth pasty," said an officer.

He was arrested and held overnight in the cells at Bobigny. 

Sentencing him, the president of the court said that she doubted his account of how much he had drunk, adding "there could have been a plane crash - you put 267 passengers at risk". 

The pilot was handed a six-month suspended sentence, a €4,500 fine and a one-year suspension of his pilot's licence. He will likely face further professional sanctions in the US.

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