Pilot passed out in cockpit of plane in Canada pleads guilty to being impaired

Pilot Miroslav Gronych (left) got bumped off his plane after his crew found him slumped over in the cockpit with 'three times the legal alcohol limit in his system'. Photo / Getty Images
Pilot Miroslav Gronych (left) got bumped off his plane after his crew found him slumped over in the cockpit with 'three times the legal alcohol limit in his system'. Photo / Getty Images

A pilot who passed out in a cockpit before a scheduled flight in Canada has pleaded guilty to being impaired while in control of an aircraft.

Miroslav Gronych, who was employed by Sunwing Airlines on a work visa from Slovakia, was due to leave Calgary, Alberta, on December 31 with four stops through Canada before continuing to Cancun, Mexico.

The 37-year-old was found slumped over in his seat and escorted off the plane.

"I can't even describe how ashamed I am," he told court.

A statement of facts read in court said police saw his pilot's wings were attached upside down on his uniform and a maid discovered an empty bottle of vodka in his hotel room.

It also said he was an hour late for check-in and when he got on the plane around 7am, the court was told, he struggled to hang up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering.

When the co-pilot suggested Gronych was impaired and should leave the plane, "he seemed very nonchalant and said 'OK, if that's what you feel',".

But Gronych returned to the cockpit, sat in the pilot's chair and appeared to pass out "resting his face on the window", the statement said.

The prosecution asked the judge for a one-year sentence and pointed to a similar case in the United States where the pilot received five years.

"Mr Gronych put the lives of 105 people at risk," prosecutor Rose Greenwood said.
"Hopefully he will never be permitted to fly again."

Defence lawyer Susan Karpa told court Gronych could not 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, Karpa said.
He drank the rest of the bottle of vodka and left for the flight.

Gronych, who lost his job, has been in treatment while out on bail, has abstained from alcohol and wants to refrain from drinking for the rest of his life.

"He wants his children to be proud of him," Karpa said.

"He wants to do everything he can to conquer his addiction."

She said Gronych is the sole breadwinner for his family, including for his elderly parents, and is living off his savings.

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. It said it also trains all employees to report any unusual behaviour.

After Gronych was charged, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association said Transport Canada should be responsible for checking the credentials of foreign pilots instead of leaving it to air operators.

- news.com.au

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