Transport minister 'very concerned' about Sunwing pilot accused of passing out drunk in cockpit
Marc Garneau asks airlines to explain their protocols 'to confirm pilots' fitness to fly'
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has written to all commercial air carriers to say he is "very concerned" about an incident in Calgary in which a Sunwing Airlines pilot is accused of being so drunk he passed out in the cockpit.
Calgary police said Miroslav Gronych boarded a Sunwing Airlines 737-800 series aircraft shortly before 7 a.m. local time on Saturday while under the influence of alcohol.
The case came up briefly at the Calgary Courts Centre Thursday and was put over until later in January.
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Gronych is a foreign national from Slovakia who is in Canada on a work visa and keeps a Saskatoon address.
He was arrested on Saturday and charged with having care and control of an aircraft while impaired and having care and control of an aircraft with a blood alcohol level over .08.
He paid $1,000 cash to be released over the weekend under the condition he surrender his passport to Calgary police. He is also forbidden from being in control of an aircraft.
It is against the law for pilots in Canada to have consumed alcohol within eight hours of flying and individual airlines, including Sunwing, often have even stricter rules.
The plane was scheduled to make stops in Regina and Winnipeg before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico. It had 99 passengers and six crew members on board.
Members of the flight crew noticed the pilot was behaving oddly before he passed out in the cockpit, according to police.
Gronych did not appear in person at the Calgary Courts Centre on Thursday. His lawyer addressed the matter at the case management office and it was put over until Jan. 25.
In his letter, Garneau asked the airlines to get in touch with Transport Canada to outline and confirm their safety protocols by Feb. 15.
"The incident in Calgary reminds us all of the need to ensure that protocols are up to date and that they are being implemented with all the required resources, including measures designed to confirm pilots' fitness to fly," Garneau wrote.
He also said in the letter that Transport Canada is also planning a workshop in early spring where airlines, unions and medical experts can get together to "consider further steps necessary to enhance aviation safety."
Sunwing spokeswoman Jacqueline Grossman said in an email to CBC News that company representatives will attend the workshop.
"We look forward to collaborating with other airlines and Transport Canada towards a common goal of further enhancing safety within the Canadian airline industry."
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With files from Colleen Underwood