Canadian police charge impaired pilot passed out in cockpit

TORONTO (Reuters) - Police in Calgary, Alberta, charged a “severely impaired” airline pilot on Saturday after he allegedly passed out in the cockpit of an early morning flight bound for Mexico shortly before takeoff.

The Sunwing Airlines flight, carrying 105 passengers and crew, was set to make two stops in Canadian cities before heading south to Cancun.

“Prior to departure, gate crew and crew aboard the flight noticed that the pilot was behaving oddly before he became unconscious in the cockpit,” Calgary police said in a statement.

The pilot, who has not been identified, was escorted off the plane and taken into custody in the 7a.m. (1200 GMT) incident. He was charged with exceeding blood-alcohol limits while having “care and control of an aircraft”. Calgary Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey told CBC News the pilot registered three times the legal limit.

In a statement, Sunwing Airlines said it found another pilot to helm the flight and lauded the diligence of its other crew who had concluded “the Captain was unfit to fly”.

“We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority,” the airline’s statement read.

Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by Nick Zieminski