Sunwing airlines plane
The Sunwing flight from Calgary to Mexico was delayed while another captain was found. Wikimedia Commons/Flikr Paul Nelhams CFYLC

A pilot in Canada was hauled off a passenger jet, shortly before take-off after he allegedly passed out, drunk.

Police say he was found unconscious in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 at Calgary International Airport on Saturday morning with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. There were 99 passengers and six crew on the flight headed for Mexico.

Slovakian Miroslav Gronych, 37, has a Canadian working visa and was flying for Sunwing, a Canadian airline. He was escorted from the flight after his co-pilot allegedly entered the cockpit to find him slumped over his chair inebriated and non-communicative.

Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey of Calgary police said: "Obviously this one had a very significant potential to cause great harm had the pilot actually been allowed to fly this plane."

"It had all the potential for a disaster… but the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they're impaired like that is pretty slim, because there's a lot of checks and balances," he said.

He told reporters in Calgary: "The co-pilot went and found the pilot in the cockpit, presumably preparing for the pre-flight. We were called and then we took that pilot into custody. He was showing signs of impairment, enough so that the gate crew were concerned and then they found him actually slumped over in the pilot's seat."

The plane reportedly took off with another captain after a short delay. In a statement, Sunwing said: "We are very appreciative of our crew's diligence in handling this very unfortunate matter," the statement read. "We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority."

Gronych is due to appear in court on Thursday, 5 January, according to the Calgary Herald.