MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – An American Eagle pilot was suspended after failing a blood-alcohol test as he prepared to fly on Friday from Minneapolis to New York City, authorities said.
Police at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said officers and a Transportation Security Administration agent smelled alcohol as they passed the pilot waiting to get on an elevator. The pilot was conducting preflight checks at about 6 a.m. when police boarded the aircraft, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
Officers made him take a breath test and arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol, Hogan said. Passengers had not yet boarded the flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, he said.
Hogan said airport police will wait until blood tests are processed before deciding whether to file charges against the pilot. Police identified the pilot as 48-year-old Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen. He was released to airline employees several hours after his arrest.
Federal rules prohibit pilots from flying within eight hours of drinking alcohol or if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or higher, half the level allowed for motorists.
Hogan said preliminary results from the breath test were well over the legal limit, but he declined to release the results. He said the “more precise” results from the blood test would be released when they’re available.
The pilot has been suspended pending an investigation, said Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, which uses American Eagle to operate shorter connecting flights. Both airlines are owned by AMR Corp. Miller said the company is cooperating with authorities and will conduct an internal investigation.
A woman who answered the phone at a North Carolina number listed in Kristiansen’s name referred inquiries to the Air Line Pilots Association, his union. She said he has been a member of the union for 23 years, but she declined further comment or to identify herself.
Messages left with union officials were not immediately returned.
The flight, with 53 passengers on board, was delayed about 2 1/2 hours while a replacement pilot was arranged, Miller said. It arrived in New York after noon.
The pilot was taken to Fairview Southdale Hospital to have a blood sample taken, then was returned to airport police before being released, Hogan said.
Pilots face drug and alcohol testing when they seek a job, are involved in an accident or return from alcohol rehabilitation. Some are selected for random tests. More than 10,000 pilots are tested each year and about a dozen flunk the alcohol part _ a number that has remained mostly steady for more than a decade, according to federal statistics.
Twelve pilots failed the breath test in 2011, 10 in 2010, and 11 in 2009, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Your odds of having an impaired driver on the highway are much higher, but there’s a smaller margin for error in aviation,” said James Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Drinking among pilots got more attention after notorious cases in the 1990s, including one in which a jury convicted all three pilots of a Northwest Airlines flight of flying under the influence. Federal rules were tightened.
Hall said most airlines and other transportation companies now have effective programs to identify and get treatment for employees with drug or alcohol problems. But, he said, an incident like Friday’s should lead to a re-examination of protocols, including the 0.04 standard to testing procedures.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- 12 things to watch before the Oscars
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Best and worst of Super Bowl commercials
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help
- This college bowl season is likely to be epic
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes