Commercial pilot arrested after failing preflight breath test

Friday , January 04, 2013 - 1:52 PM

Mary Jane Credeur

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- A pilot for AMR’s American Eagle regional unit was arrested Friday at the Minneapolis airport after failing an alcohol breath test before a flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport.

Passengers hadn’t yet boarded the plane, and a replacement pilot was brought in to make the trip, said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which oversees Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Flight 4590 was a regional jet carrying 53 people, AMR said.

The pilot was performing preflight checks about 6:30 a.m. local time when witnesses reported smelling alcohol, Hogan said. Airport police administered a breath test, and the pilot was taken to a hospital for blood alcohol screening, he said. The pilot’s name and home town weren’t yet available.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibits pilots from flying while under the influence of alcohol, specifically when their blood alcohol content is 0.04 percent or higher, or within eight hours of consuming any alcoholic drinks.

AMR’s alcohol policies for crew members are “more stringent than the FAA’s,” Matt Miller, a spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR, said in an e-mail. “We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation.”

The pilot, a male, is being suspended from flying until the inquiry is completed, Miller said.

The plane, a Bombardier Inc. CRJ-700 regional jet, was scheduled to depart Minneapolis at 6:10 a.m., Miller said. It left Minneapolis about 2 1/2 hours late, and arrived at LaGuardia at 12:15 p.m. local time.

Pilot-alcohol violations tracked by the FAA totaled 183 from 1995 through 2011, or an average of about 11 a year.

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