Flight crew face sentencing next week

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Four members of an airBaltic flight crew arrested over the weekend for being under the influence of alcohol will get their day in court as early as next week. The co-pilot, who had the highest blood-alcohol level of 1.35, has said his arrest came as a “shock.”

Both the captain and his first officer apologized at their custody hearing on Monday and claimed they had “ruined” their own and their families’ futures. AirBaltic has already fired both the two officers and the two flight attendants and now they face prison sentences under Norwegian law.

Charges may be expanded
The 50-year-old captain, whose final test results showed a blood alcohol level of 0.54, carried responsibility for the entire crew in addition to himself and police are therefore considering expanding the charges against him.

“We are taking it very seriously because of what more then 100 airline passengers were subjected to when four out of five flight crew members had high levels of alcohol in their blood,” prosecutor Camilla Ek Sørensen said after Monday’s custody hearing. A third flight attendant reporting for duty on the early morning airBaltic flight from Oslo to Crete tested negative to having alcohol in her system.

“Those charged must expect significant punishment,” Sørensen said, adding that their ongoing remand custody granted by the court on Monday was “necessary” so that they couldn’t leave Norway and avoid their punishment.

Arrests came as a shock
The captain appealed the judge’s order on Monday that he be held in custody for at least two weeks but admitted in court that he had made a serious mistake that had ruined his family’s future. His co-pilot also made it clear in court that he “had no future” in aviation. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that he had begun his pilot training four years after earlier obtaining an advanced university degree and running a business.

“I apologize for what happened,” the co-pilot said after admitting the flight crew members drank more and longer than they should have while spending the night at a hotel near Oslo’s airport before the morning flight to Crete. “The three days under arrest have been a shock.”

The defense attorney for the flight crew members, Jørund Lægland, told Aftenposten that his clients wanted to have their case handled as soon as possible and that’s been granted. The Nedre Romerike Court will hear their case early next week. “I have conferred with my clients and this was the solution,” Lægland said.

AirBaltic, meawhile, has announced that it has sharpened safety checks and all flight crews now must submit to alcohol testing before they go on duty.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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