Hovercraft pilot was three times over limit

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A PILOT of the Isle of Wight Hovercraft has admitted to being over the drink-driving limit while in charge of the vessel.

Richard Pease was piloting the Hovercraft between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight earlier this year, with 36 passengers on board, when he became ill and had to hand over control to another crew member.

The 50-year-old pleaded guilty at Isle of Wight Crown Court after he was breathalysed and found to have 96 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath — almost three times the legal limit of 35 micrograms.

Pease, from Cowes, could now be at risk of losing his job at the operator Hovertravel.

The court heard how he was piloting the 130-seater Freedom 90 hovercraft, which has a maximum speed of 45 knots – about 50mph – across the Solent between Portsmouth and Ryde in June.

Shortly into the 10-minute journey, he complained of feeling unwell and a colleague took the controls.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of being a master of a hovercraft having consumed excess alcohol.

Hovertravel, one of the world’s longest-running commercial hovercraft services, is the only scheduled passenger service in Europe.

The firm declined to comment on the specifics of the case until Pease is sentenced.

But a spokesman said: ‘Hovertravel has reviewed their robust procedures and concluded they were implemented successfully on the day.

‘This ensured that any risk to health and safety was mitigated.

‘Regular training and a clear understanding of our safety procedures gave our crew the confidence to react appropriately to the situation.’

Pease, who has more than 20 years’ experience of piloting a hovercraft, will be sentenced on October 10 after the case was adjourned.

He was granted unconditional bail.