CALGARY, Canada — A pilot who drank a bottle of vodka in his hotel room before his flight to Cancun and was so impaired he appeared to pass out in the cockpit says he is filled with remorse and shame.
Miroslav Gronych, a Slovakian national who was escorted off a Sunwing Airlines plane in Calgary on Dec. 31, pleaded guilty Tuesday March 21 to having care and control of an aircraft while he had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.
The 37-year-old tearfully told court becoming a pilot was a childhood dream.
Gronych, father to a toddler and baby, said the case, which made headlines around the world, has taken a toll on his family.
“My kids will be punished for my mistakes,” he said.
Gronych’s flight was scheduled to leave Calgary with stops in Regina and Winnipeg before continuing to Cancun, Quintana Roo.
He was an hour late for his check-in and said he got lost going through security, said an agreed statement of facts read in court. When Gronych got on the plane around 7 a.m., he struggled to hang up his coat, was slurring his words and was staggering, court was told.
When the co-pilot suggested Gronych was impaired and should leave the plane, “he seemed very nonchalant and said, ‘OK, if that’s what you feel.”‘ But Gronych returned to the cockpit, sat in the pilot’s chair and appeared to pass out “resting his face on the window,” the statement said.
He was asked again to leave the plane and was held by gate agents until police arrived.
Court heard passengers on the plane were told the pilot had suddenly become ill, but some had already seen him and suspected he was drunk.
When police arrived, they found his pilot’s wings were pinned upside down. They smelled alcohol on his breath and he couldn’t stand up straight.
Defence lawyer Susan Karpa told court Gronych couldn’t sleep the night before his flight and felt like he was coming down with a cold. He took a couple of shots of vodka and a Tylenol, and planned to wake up in time to let people know he wouldn’t make the flight.
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