CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — An airline pilot who was so drunk he appeared to pass out in the cockpit before takeoff was sentenced on Monday to eight months in jail in Canada.
Miroslav Gronych, 37, pleaded guilty last month to having care and control of an aircraft while he had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.
The Slovakian pilot was escorted off a Sunwing Airlines plane in Calgary on Dec. 31 before a flight scheduled to end in Cancun, Mexico.
The court heard that when Gronych got on the plane, he struggled to hang up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering. The court was also told the co-pilot suggested Gronych should leave the plane, but he eventually returned to the cockpit, sat down and appeared to pass out with his face resting on the window.
Judge Anne Brown also banned Gronych from flying for one year after his release. She noted he has been in treatment for alcoholism, has abstained from drinking since the event and has been "thoroughly shamed."
The court heard that Gronych, who is married and has two young children, has lost his job.
The defense had asked for a three- to six-month sentence while the prosecution asked the judge to give Gronych one year in jail.
Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood said she is happy with the sentence.
"It is a clear message to pilots that if you drink alcohol and you fly a plane, you're going to be met with a period of incarceration," she said.
His defense lawyer told the court last month that Gronych couldn't sleep the night before his flight and felt like he was coming down with a cold. He took a couple of shots of vodka and a Tylenol, and planned to wake up in time to let people know he wouldn't make the flight. He didn't set an alarm and was awakened by a call asking him where he was, his lawyer said. He drank the rest of the bottle of vodka and left for the flight.
When police arrived, they found his pilot's wings were pinned upside down. They smelled alcohol on his breath and he couldn't stand up straight.
Sunwing , a low-cost Canadian carrier, has said it has a zero tolerance policy on crew members consuming alcohol within 12 hours of going on duty.