British Airways Pilot Fired After Pre-Flight Bender


British Airways has confirmed it has fired a pilot whose layover antics caused it to cancel a flight at a cost of $120,000. Numerous U.K. publications are reporting the first officer showed up for work in Johannesburg after texting a blow-by-blow description of his cocaine and alcohol-fueled antics to a flight attendant friend. “I’ve been a very naughty boy,” he reportedly texted his friend. BA uses A380s for its twice-daily service to the South African city.

When he showed up for the flight the next day, the flight attendant turned him in and the flight was canceled. The FO flew back as a passenger the next day. When he arrived at Heathrow, he was tested for drugs and failed. He was fired on the spot. The airline confirmed it had fired the pilot but didn’t elaborate. The Civil Aviation Authority said the normal procedure when notified of a failed drug test is to pull the pilot’s medical immediately. “In most cases, the pilot would have an assessment with an expert medical team and if they wished to return to flying then a comprehensive rehabilitation program would be put in place.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Well , that F/O sure did give a ” blow by ” blow account , now didn’t he/ she ?
    Very granular…..adios ATP ..Commercial…

  2. Some people fail the psychological assessment before being hired, some thereafter. That guy obviously lacked the judgment to see his addiction as something to be treated in order to save the job rather than something to boast about.

    • You can Google my name if you want the full story, but I was THE first airline pilot in American aviation history to go to prison for flying an airliner under the influence of alcohol Norrthwest Airlines Flight 650, Mar 8, 1990) Everything that happened to me was fair and appropriate – termination, disgrace, imprisonment, and losing everything.

      I’m an alcoholic, now sober for 33 yrs, ever since my arrest on Mar 8, 1990. I retired as a 747 Capt for the same airline I disgraced even though I never fought my termination…and 8 yrs later I rec’d a Pres Pardon which was led by the judge who sent me to prison, and I never asked for that, either.

      I believe in consequences – but your comment about this pilot’s “judgment” indicates a total lack of understanding about alcoholism/addiction which is a disease that directly affects judgment. It’s not possible for someone who’s impaired to understand the nature of the impairment until and unless some event occurs which forces some kind of outside intervention. Alcoholism/addiction is primarily a brain disease and I understand it well.

      I have NEVER said or believed that my alcoholism is an excuse…for ANYTHING – but it IS the cause for behavior and misconduct that occurs as a result. Once it’s addressed and dealt with, however, that behavior can be changed. Over 6800 recovering airline pilots have been returned to America’s cockpits since 1973, and there has NEVER been even ONE single accident or incident involving any of them. I make NO excuses for this British Airways pilot, but IF he’s able to address his problems he can change his life; whether he gets the second chance I got is yet to be seen. But pilots, mechanics, employees of ANY kind are usually good people who should not be tossed on a scrap heap as disposable entities IF they can safely be returned to the workplace as good, decent, productive people. Some will strongly disagree with me, but I’ve lived in the world of recovery for a long time and I’ve seen the miracles, which are consistent.

      • I applaud your courage. Overcoming an addiction is no small feat. But this pilot is in the first stages of what you went through. If can get himself clean and sober, and stay that way to the satisfaction of all involved then I have no problem giving him a second chance.

        But that’s not my call.

      • Just found your Wikipedia page – powerful life story. Love your “I believe in consequences” statement; something that gets more and more lost on the younger generations.

      • Lyle,

        Thank you for your comments. As one of your fellow Northwest pilots back in the day, I initially joined many of my peers in being disgusted if not irate with you. However, the story of your perseverance through the consequences of that behavior is inspirational. We all followed your journey back into the cockpit. I really enjoyed the discussion that we had many years ago. Again, thank you for your insight and candid, timely comments. Best of everything to you sir.

      • Thanks for posting that. I grew up seeing typical addictions and other problematic patterns of behaviour as simply terrible choices by people who know better but decided they know better or don’t care. Human factors psychology was the entry point for me slowly coming to understand the truth. Which turned out to be uncomfortably close to home in some respects but which has ultimately made me more grateful for the aspects of the lottery of genetics I won.

        The older I get the more I understand the wisdom of old sayings, be they religious or otherwise. “There but for the grace of God, go I.” I know that the humility it takes to live that attitude is part of the reason aviation has become so safe, despite the fact we go up in the air with all of that gravity trying to stop the fun.

  3. The colleague did the right thing by alerting the company. If not only for safety, it also serves to set this person on a road to rehabilitation. If flight crews are a representation of society, then statistically there are a lot of cases out there of MAD related issues.

  4. 40 years ago in a collegiate flight school it was implied the correct response to the airline interview question of “What would you do if your first officer showed up one minute before push smelling of alcohol?” was to strongly suggest he looks ill and you weren’t comfortable flying with him, giving him the option to beg out without consequences. That was the social moray of the times.

    With substance abuse impacting and destroying so many families now, thankfully it’s recognized immediate and firm consequences, while derailing a career that’s already off the rails, might be the wake up call that saves many lives.

    Of course the response “I’d tell him if you want to show up early, that’s on you” was equally acceptable.

  5. Sadly, addiction is far too commonplace today, and is the vulture’s claw from which you never really escape. I have witnessed the destruction of family members and friends, and the loss thereof. Some who had been “clean” for years suddenly overdosing to death. And it is is in every walk of life. Hopefully this person can get the help they need….

    • Amen. I lost a friend who got himself clean but ultimately sank back into the clutches of meth addiction. He was murdered over a sour drug deal 3 years after becoming clean and then falling back into addiction. It’s terrible stuff.

      • It can be done, 42 years clean and sober tomorrow. My daughter just celebrated her first year after multiple rehabs and relapses. It is hard but well worth it. I sent this to my daughter a few days ago, “ADDICTION is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving up one thing for EVERYTHING.”