Party-prone aviator loses bid to overturn sacking

The pilot, whose name is suppressed, worked for Pacific Blue, now known as Virgin Australia, for 16 months before his dismissal. Photo / APN
The pilot, whose name is suppressed, worked for Pacific Blue, now known as Virgin Australia, for 16 months before his dismissal. Photo / APN

A pilot accused of booze-fuelled antics at a Sydney hotel and supplying a colleague with a class-C drug during a spa pool party that finished just hours before his shift was rightly sacked, a court has ruled.

The pilot, whose name is suppressed, worked for Pacific Blue, now known as Virgin Australia, for 16 months before his dismissal.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled his dismissal was justified, but the pilot appealed against the decision in the Employment Court.

The man was employed as a first officer pilot in August, 2008.

In January 2009, he and 15 colleagues visited a hotel bar in Sydney's Potts Point, where staff became concerned at their rowdy behaviour, the court said in its decision, released yesterday.

However, Pacific Blue had concerns about whether he had been honest with them during their investigation into the incident.

Six months later the man and four other crew went to his home and partied in a spa pool, drank alcohol, and some took a natural herbal pill called Red Alert, supplied by the pilot.

One of the crew members slept at the man's place overnight. She said that next morning she found the pilot slumped on a chair looking "munted".

However, others at the party disputed her evidence, saying he was in bed.

When the woman went to leave the property, she collapsed on the street, was hospitalised and the class C-controlled drug benzylpiperazine (BZP) was found in her system.

At the time BZP was legal in New Zealand, but is now illegal.

The pilot was on standby to fly the afternoon following the party and he told his employer he had stopped drinking eight hours before his shift was due to start.

He said he had "no doubt" that he would have been within the acceptable (blood alcohol) range, although he did accept that he had pushed the limits, the Employment Court said.

Judge Christina Inglis said Pacific Blue operated in a safety-conscious industry.

"Public safety is a core concern. It is self evident that the defendant must have the utmost trust and confidence in its pilots."

- APNZ

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