Sun, Dec 05, 2004
British court sends pilot Heikki Tallila to jail for
On August 23, Heikki
Tallila, a 51-year-old pilot for Finland's national airline
Finnair, got off a taxi that had brought him to Manchester Airport.
He was scheduled to fly one of the airline's Boeing 757's to
Turkey. Just a short while later, while he was performing his
preflight checks, airport authorities boarded the aircraft and
escorted him off the flight.
Acting on a tip from the taxi driver, Tallila was then
administered a blood alcohol content test, under a law that had
been enacted just a few months prior, in March, that gives police
the authority to test pilots and cabin crew suspected of flying
under the influence. The pilot clocked over two and a half times
the legal limit, and was immediately arrested.
Tallila has now been sentenced to six months in prison by
British Justice John Burke. "If you had been a mere passenger
causing problems and interfering with your fellow passengers and
crew and misbehaving you would have gone to prison," he told
the Tallila, according to the Associated Press. "In
your case the passengers did not even appreciate their safety was
in jeopardy. They assumed their safety was in good hands."
Evidence presented by the prosecution showed that Tallila
didn't just get drunk -- he'd had as many as seven glasses of wine
and a beer the same afternoon he was scheduled to fly. The
consequences for the pilot and his family have been nothing short
of dire. After 25 years with the airline and a salary of some
$180,000, he was fired. His wife also works as a flight attendant
for Finnair, and though she has been lucky to keep her job, both
her and her husband have been the subject to a great deal of public
"This has been a very public humiliation. This has impacted very
highly on this individual. The financial consequences have been
hard," said attorney Gerard McDermott. According to McDermott,
Tallila now regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous sessions and is
under counseling for substance abuse.
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