A former British Airways pilot who admitted being drunk on duty has been told there is a "very, very high chance" he will receive a custodial sentence.
Julian Monaghan, 49, was arrested at Gatwick Airport on January 18 on suspicion of reporting for duty as a pilot when his level of alcohol was over the prescribed limit.
He pleaded guilty to the offence at Crawley Magistrates' Court and to having 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system.
The legal limit for a pilot is 20mg.
Emlyn Jones, defending, told the court his client had consumed a vodka and coke at 10.30am, well in advance of the eight-hour prohibition on the consumption of alcohol before turning up for duty - known as the "bottle to throttle" rule.
He said: "He was not due to take up his responsibilities as pilot of the plane on take-off.
"He would not have been charged with taking up the role of pilot until three- and-a-half hours into the flight."
Mr Jones told the court Monaghan had been on a overnight flight as a passenger the night before, and had spent the day without food or sleep.
He added: "He turned up for work appalled, astonished and horrified that he was still over the limit."
Mr Jones submitted his client was only "a fraction" over the drink-drive limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood, and that Monaghan was not falling over drunk and no harm was caused.
This was rejected by chair of the bench Dr David Wiggins, who said: "I have to say the comparison to drink-driving is somewhat spurious in these circumstances.
"A pilot in a Boeing 777 is somewhat different from driving on the road, so we are completely ignoring that comment."
Asking for the court to consider sentencing Monaghan on Wednesday, Mr Jones, said: "He has thrown away the only career he has ever known.
"He has been a pilot his whole life, and that has gone."
Sending the case to crown court, Dr Wiggins told the ex-pilot: "I think you need to prepare yourself there is a very, very high chance that it will be an immediate custodial sentence."
Monaghan, who gave his address as care of a solicitors' firm, was arrested at Gatwick Airport after Sussex Police received a call at 8.25pm regarding a member of airline staff suspected to have been under the influence of alcohol.
The 12-hour flight, from Gatwick to Mauritius, was scheduled to leave at 8.20pm, but the plane was left waiting at the gate while airline staff looked for a third pilot.
Monaghan is due to be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on June 12.
A spokeswoman for British Airways said: "This behaviour is completely unacceptable and not what we expect from our highly professional fleet of pilots.
"The safety and security of our customers and colleagues is always our top priority."