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Pilot Resigns After Shaky Takeoff

August 30, 1999

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Virgin Express has accepted the resignation of a pilot who reportedly alarmed passengers as he prepared to fly them from Madrid to Brussels.

The airline supported the pilot’s assertion that he suffered a gastrointestinal disorder while taxiing for takeoff Saturday. The pilot said he had to turn the Boeing 737 around and return to the terminal, Virgin Express director of corporate affairs Paul Skellon said from Brussels.

Four hours later, the plane took off with a different pilot.

Waiting out the delay in the departure lounge, passengers recounted that the plane’s jerky movements had caused crew members to stumble as they went through the in-flight safety drill, according to the newspaper El Mundo.

El Mundo quoted an unidentified passenger Monday as saying he had seen the pilot ``totally drunk.″

Skellon said other crew members did not see anything to suggest the pilot had been drinking and that Virgin Airlines continued to investigate the incident.

Skellon said the pilot admitted to having acted unprofessionally and should have seen a doctor before getting onto the plane.

He said the pilot was a 50-year-old Irishman who had been working for Virgin Express for six months and had logged 14,500 hours of flying time in his career. He declined to give out his name.

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