In the wake of a Dec. 31 incident in which a Sunwing Airline pilot is accused of being so drunk he passed out in the cockpit before a scheduled flight, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau is asking the country’s commercial air carriers to confirm by mid-February that they have measures in place to assure pilot fitness for duty.
In a letter to carriers, Garneau said he was “very concerned” about the incident, and reminded the airlines that they “have an obligation to ensure flight crewmembers are fit to fly when requiring them to carry out such responsibilities and additionally a responsibility to have procedures in place to identify and manage hazards to aviation safety. The incident in Calgary reminds us all of the need to ensure that protocols are up to date and that they are being implemented with all the required resources, including measures designed to conform pilots’ fitness to fly.”
Garneau asked carriers to confirm with Transport Canada by Feb. 15 that such measures are in place.
According to media reports, the Sunwing pilot boarded a Boeing 737-800 early on the morning of Dec. 31. The aircraft was scheduled to fly from Calgary to Cancun, Mexico, with two stops in Canada en route. According to police and media reports, other members of the flight crew noticed the pilot behaving oddly before he passed out in the cockpit. He subsequently was arrested by Calgary police and charged with having care and control of an aircraft while impaired and having care and control of an aircraft with a blood alcohol level over 0.08.
“While standard protocols and quick crew action did address the recent incident, we all collectively have a responsibility to make sure our systems are robust enough to prevent such incidents in the future,” Garneau said.
Transport Canada is organizing a workshop tentatively planned for some time in the next few months to bring companies, unions and medical experts together to “consider further steps necessary to enhance safety,” he said.