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8 January 2015, 16:22
A pilot found guilty of landing at Norwich airport while three times over the legal alcohol limit has been jailed for nine months.
47 year old Ian Jennings of Gale Moor Avenue in Gosport, Hampshire was arrested at Norwich Airport last October after flying 10 passengers from Spain to Norwich.
Amongst the passengers was millionaire scrap metal mogul Andre Serruys along with a woman and three teenage girls.
This afternoon, the court heard how Jennings had been hungover after a three-day drinking binge.
The police attended the airport after someone on the plane told them they suspected he'd been drinking. Police described him as nervous and smelling strongly of alcohol when he was subsequently breathalysed.
Officers detected 31 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 militres of breath - the limit for pilots is 9 microgrammes while the limit for drivers is 35.
Jennings, who admitted flying while over the prescribed limit in November, claimed he had only drunk three pints of lager the night before but was told by Judge Stephen Holt that this "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."
Marcus Crosskell, mitigating, said Jennings had recently ended a period of flying out of Africa where he had been 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 and may have been at the point where he was simply topping it up.''
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 was described as having an exemplary record.
Mr Crosskell added: "He is a gentleman who has lost his distinguished career and his reputation.''
His licence has been suspended by the Civil Aviation Authority.