A United Airlines pilot who was pulled from his trans-Atlantic flight to Chicago shortly before takeoff has been charged with having too much alcohol in his system, British police said Tuesday.
Scotland Yard said that 51-year-old Erwin Vermont Washington, of
Lakewood, Colorado, was arrested after officers were called to
United Airlines Flight 949, which was already full of passengers
and due to leave London's Heathrow Airport just after noon on
BAA, Heathrow's operator, said the plane had been due to leave
imminently. A BAA spokesman quoted by Britain's Press Association
news agency added that the pilot had been reported to authorities
by another member of United's staff. BAA did not immediately return
a call from the AP seeking comment late Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear how much alcohol Washington was
accused of having consumed. Under British law, pilots are forbidden
from having any more than 20 micrograms of alcohol for each 100
milliliters of blood in their system, or .02 percent. For most
average-sized men, that is the equivalent of having just had about
half a glass of regular strength beer.
Scotland Yard said that Washington, who has been released on
bail, would have to appear at a court in northwest London on Nov.
20. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison, a fine, or
United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Washington, who
she did not identify by name, has been removed from service pending
an investigation. She said her airline had strict rules on alcohol
"and we have no tolerance for violation of this well-established
She declined to say how long Washington had worked for the
McCarthy said that the flight was canceled and that the plane's
124 passengers were put on other flights.
Monday's incident bears a strong resemblance to the arrest in
May at Heathrow of an American Airlines pilot - also scheduled to
fly a plane to Chicago - after he failed a breath test. Airport
security staff had alerted airport police about the pilot.
In January, Southwest Airlines put a pilot on leave after
passengers at a security checkpoint in Columbus, Ohio, told
authorities that he smelled of alcohol. The pilot ran into a
restroom and changed out of his uniform jacket and called in sick.
Union leaders say pilots are under increased scrutiny by
security agents and passengers because of high-profile cases
involving drunk pilots.