Glasgow & West Scotland

Pilot Paul Grebenc jailed for drinking before flight

Paul Grebenc Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Grebenc is also a United States Air Force reservist

A pilot has been jailed after he admitted boarding a flight he was due to help fly while more than double the drink-fly alcohol limit.

First Officer Paul Grebenc, 35, was taken off a United Airlines plane at Glasgow Airport on 27 August 2016.

The police were contacted after Grebenc's co-pilot, Carlos Roberto Licona, went through security and staff smelled alcohol on his breath.

Grebenc, from Humble in Texas, was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Licona was jailed for 15 months on 10 March after he also admitted attempting to board the flight while drunk.

Paisley Sheriff Court heard that on the morning of 27 August, Grebenc and his United Airlines colleagues were brought to Glasgow Airport from the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow, where they had spent the night, having flown from the US to Scotland the previous day.

They were due to fly a Boeing 757 to Newark, New Jersey, with take-off scheduled for 09:00.

As they passed through the staff search area, security staff smelled alcohol on the breath of the other First Officer, Carlos Licona, and raised the alarm.

Removed from plane

Police were contacted and went to the departure gate, where Licona and Grebenc - who was also a US Air Force reservist - were removed from the flight.

Fiscal Depute Scot Dignan said: "Police did not go on board the aircraft as they wanted to be discreet and not alarm passengers.

"Grebenc was asked to disembark with Licona as police also had suspicions regarding him.

"He was taken to a quieter spot. At about 09:30 he was asked to provide a specimen of breath for analysis which proved positive and he was taken in a marked police vehicle to Govan police station."

Grebenc's sample revealed he had 42 milligrams of alcohol in 100ml of blood - more than double the 20 milligrams limit for flying.

The flight, carrying 141 passengers, was delayed for nine hours.

Sentencing Grebenc, Sheriff David Pender said: "I realise you have had several major difficulties in your personal life and this has had an impact on your consumption of alcohol.

"While you have not been a commercial pilot for very long, you have vast skill as a US Air Force pilot and you must be aware of the dangers of flying under the influence of alcohol.

"You also deliberately flouted your employer's guidelines and ignored what they regard as a safe eight-hour gap between drinking alcohol and being on duty."

Pilot's licence

Grebenc admitted performing "an activity ancillary to an aviation function" at stand 28 at Glasgow Airport.

David McKie, defending Grebenc, said: "He takes full responsibility for his actions."

Grebenc's wife is also a pilot with the US Air Force and the couple, who live on an air base in Mississippi, have two children aged two and four.

Mr McKie told the court that the case would have "catastrophic consequences" for his client and could see him being dishonourably discharged from the US Air Force and losing his pilot's licence.

A United Airlines spokesman said: "We hold all of our employees to the highest standards. This pilot was immediately removed from service and his flying duties in August 2016."

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