A HUNGOVER pilot who flew a plane after a three-day drinking binge has been jailed.
Ian Jennings, 47, of Gale Moor Avenue, Gosport, flew an executive jet from Spain and landed at Norwich Airport.
The plane was carrying millionaire scrap metal mogul Andre Serruys along with a woman and three teenage girls.
Police breathalysed Jennings at Norwich Airport on October 30 and found he was three times the legal limit.
Norwich Crown Court heard he smelt strongly of alcohol and seemed nervous. Jennings had admitted flying while the alcohol in his breath was over the limit.
But he claimed he had only drunk three pints of lager the night before.
Judge Stephen Holt said this claim ‘did not add up’.
Sentencing him to nine months in prison, Judge Holt said: ‘Some eight or nine hours earlier you must have been considerably higher than the level detected.
‘You must have been drinking considerably the night before you went to the airport.
‘The public must have 100% confidence that pilots in this country are 100% sober.
‘The devastation you could have wreaked, not only to passengers but also on the ground, goes without saying.
‘It is my duty to send the clear message that any pilot who commits this kind of offence must expect an immediate custodial sentence.’
His barrister accepted Jennings may have fallen foul of ‘topping up’ after days of heavy drinking to celebrate his engagement. Prosecutor Chris Youell said Jennings had reported for work at 8am that morning and there was no evidence he had consumed alcohol that day.
He was not breathalysed until after 2pm. On the morning of the incident, Jennings had acted as captain while a co-pilot flew the Canadair CL601-3A Challenger from Oxford to Palma in Majorca.
Once there, Jennings took the controls and flew to Norwich.
Someone on the flight became suspicious he had been drinking and contacted the police.
Officers detected 31 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath – the limit for pilots is nine microgrammes while the limit for drivers is 35.
Marcus Crosskell, mitigating, said Jennings had recently ended a period of flying out of Africa where he was under pressure because of the Ebola epidemic.
Mr Crosskell added: ‘He is not a gentleman who habitually drinks or has a drink problem.
‘But having ended a stint in Africa there was a period of celebration.
‘He had got engaged that week and been out for various dinners and events and had been drinking alcohol in the three days leading up to the offence.
‘The night before he had not drank excessive amounts of alcohol but he had been drinking heavily that week.’
The court heard Jennings, who has 20 years experience as a pilot, began his career on an RAF scholarship after developing a love for aerobatic flying.
He has an exemplary record. His licence was suspended by the Civil Aviation Authority.