London Police say they arrested Captain Erwin Vermont Washington out of the cockpit, as he prepared United Flight 149 at London-Heathrow Airport for the non-stop to Chicago.
Reports say a co-worker noticed the smell of alcohol and called police, who discreetly removed Captain Washington, age 51, from the sight of his 124 passengers and administered a breathalyzer test.
United canceled the flight, and issued the following statement:
Safety is our highest priority and the pilot has been removed from service while we are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full investigation… United’s alcohol policy is among the strictest in the industry and we have no tolerance for violation of this well-established policy.
The incident is the latest in a series of airline misadventures over the past few weeks raising questions whether the level of professionalism in the cockpit may be declining dangerously. However, actual statistics indicate pilot infractions have actually declined significantly over the past two years.