A Feb 2013 handout of a Sunwing Airlines plane
Taking control of a commercial jet bound for Regina after downing a full bottle of vodka should land a Sunwing Airlines pilot a one-year sentence, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Crown lawyer Rose Greenwood said Miroslav Gronych’s conduct amounted to a severe breach of trust.
“He put the lives of 105 people in jeopardy,” Greenwood told provincial court Judge Anne Brown, referring to the passengers and crew aboard the airplane.
“This was a crime of dramatic proportion.”
Gronych, 37, pleaded guilty to having care and control of an aircraft while he had more than the legal amount of alcohol in his system in connection with an incident Dec. 31.
Greenwood said a breath sample provided by Gronych hours after he was supposed to pilot the flight leaving Calgary at 7 a.m., showed a blood-alcohol level at nearly three and a half times the legal driving limit.
She said a maid who cleaned Gronych’s room at the Delta Airport Hotel found an empty, 26-ounce vodka bottle.
“Mr. Gronych chose to consume an incredible amount of alcohol,” Greenwood said.
An airplane flies over traffic on Barlow Trail in Calgary on Tuesday February 8, 2011
She said he arrived in Calgary shortly before 1 a.m. and was to return to the airport at 6 a.m. for a flight departing an hour later.
When Gronych failed to show, the first officer contacted Sunwing’s operation control centre, which got in touch with the pilot.
Gronych arrived at the departure gate at 7:05 a.m., five minutes after the flight was to have departed.
“At this point, the first officer had been informed by Sunwing’s customer service agent and multiple ground agents working at the gate that they had concerns Gronych was impaired by alcohol,” Greenwood said, reading from a statement of facts signed by the offender and his lawyer, Susan Karpa.
“He was slurring his words, staggering and could not walk in a straight line.”
The prosecutor said the first officer also had concerns once Gronych reached the flight deck.
“When Gronych entered the flight deck, the first officer watched as he tried to hang his jacket up on a coat hanger,” Greenwood said.
“Based on the 30 seconds it took Gronych to hang his jacket and the fact he was staggering on his feet, the first officer believed that he was impaired.”
The first officer then told the Slovak national he believed he was impaired, would not be flying the plane and would have to exit immediately.
As the first officer, whom Greenwood did not identify by name, updated the control centre on the situation, Gronych returned to the cockpit, sat in the pilot’s seat and appeared to pass out, resting his face on the window.
After he was forced to leave the plane, gate agents detained him until police arrested him.
He was slurring his words, staggering and could not walk in a straight line
Karpa argued a sentence of three to six months would be appropriate, noting her client’s career has been ruined by his conduct.
“Flying has been my client’s life since he was a young boy,” she said.
Before adjourning to April 3 to pass sentence, Brown allowed Gronych to address the court.
“What I did was terrible and I feel very ashamed for it,” Gronych said.
He apologized for the pain he’s caused his wife and children, but didn’t apologize to the passengers or crew on the flight.
Brown ordered Gronych into custody pending her sentencing decision.