A Sunwing Airlines pilot has been sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to having care and control over an aircraft while being impaired.

Miroslav Gronych, a 37 year old Slovakian national working in Canada as an airline pilot was detained in Calgary on December 31, 2016 when he was found unconscious and slumped over in his seat on the flight deck of a Boeing 737.

In handing down her sentence, Alberta Court Judge Anne Brown said:

“This type of sentence is concerned about community standards and harm brought on the community by breaching the trust that a pilot has with the community”. She went onto add, “The essential issue in this case, then, is the appropriate sentence to send a message of denunciation and deterrence to commercial airline pilots”.

Captain Gronych, was schedule to report for duty at the Calgary Airport at 6:00am on December 31st , to operate Sunwing flight 595 departing Calgary at 7:00am for Cancun Mexico with schedule stops in Regina and Winnipeg. When he failed to arrive at the aircraft in a timely manner, the first officer advised the Sunwing operation center.

According to testimony Gronych showed up at the gate and boarded the aircraft shortly after the schedule departure time. Other crew members as well as Sunwing ground staff became alarm at Gronych’s behaviour as he appeared to struggle hanging up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering. At one point the first officer suggest that perhaps Captain Gronych should leave the aircraft however Gronych took his position on the flight deck and passed out with his face resting on the window. Police claim when they arrived, officers noticed that Gronych’s wings pin was fastened upside down. They later recovered an empty 26 – ounce bottle of vodka from Gronych’ hotel room.

The court was told that a breath sample provided by Gronych several hours later indicated a blood-alcohol level three and half times over the legal driving limit.

Under Canadian aviation regulations flight crew members are prohibited from working within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol.

Judge Brown cited Gronych’s efforts towards rehabilitation, the global scrutiny that the case attracted and the fact that Gronych never touched the controls of the aircraft, as mitigating factors in her decision. She also noted that it is unlikely Gronych will ever work as a pilot again.

Judge Brown banned Gronych from flying for one year after his release and imposed a $100.00(CAD) victim fine surcharge.