A Sunwing Airlines pilot faces charges after his co-pilot found him slumped over drunk in the cockpit of a plane early Saturday morning as the flight crew prepared to take nearly 100 passengers from Calgary to Cancun, Mexico, Canadian authorities said.
Gate crew members working at Calgary International Airport sounded the alarm just before 7 a.m. after they noticed the pilot, identified as Miroslav Gronych, 37, acting strangely before he was scheduled to fly.
Gronych's co-pilot went to investigate the claim and found Gronych slumped over in the cockpit of the Boeing 737-800, Calgary Sgt. Paul Stacey said at a news conference. Police were called and authorities took Gronych into custody.
"It had all the potential for a disaster," Stacey said. "But I'll tell you this much — the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they're impaired like that is pretty slim, because there's a lot of checks and balances. There's the other flight crew and there's gate crew and they're all about safety."
Two hours after his arrest, police determined Gronych's blood alcohol content (BAC) was more than three times the legal limit.
"We tested him approximately two hours after we took him into custody and he still blew at that extreme level," Stacey said. "I can't tell you when he had his last drink, but he was pretty high."
He faces charges of having control of an aircraft while impaired and having care and control of an aircraft while his BAC exceeded .08.
Gronych is from Slovakia and was in Canada on a work visa, Stacey said. Police did not know of any previous incidents involving the pilot.
Transport Canada is also investigating the case. Authorities expect the governmental agency to levy additional charges against Gronych.
"He won't be flying anytime soon," Stacey said.
, a Sunwing spokeswoman apologized for the incident and called it a "very unfortunate matter."
"We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority," spokeswoman Jacqueline Grossman told the news network in an email.
Saturday's flight had planned stops in Regina and Winnipeg before it skipped over America and continued on to Cancun, police said. The flight left with another pilot.
© 2021 Cox Media Group