A JetBlue pilot was taken off a flight moments before it was set to take off in New York after taking an alcohol breathalyzer test where he blew over four times the legal limit allowed for pilots to fly, multiple reports say.
In a statement sent to CBS News, the The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said 52-year-old James Clifton was passing through airport security at Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning when a Transportation Security Administration officer noticed Clifton appeared to be drunk. The officer contacted airport police who then removed Clifton from the cockpit of a flight bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The statement said Clifton took a breathalyzer test, and he blew a 0.17 blood alcohol content level, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 to drive in the U.S.
The Federal Aviation Administration does not permit pilots to fly if their blood alcohol level is 0.04 or higher.
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The NFTA said federal authorities were notified, and Clifton was taken out of police custody and released to JetBlue security. ABC News said Clifton could face federal charges.
The flight Clifton was on was delayed for over four hours before taking off and landing in Fort Lauderdale at 1:10 p.m. ET, according to Flight Aware.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in statement to USA TODAY it is investigation the alleged incident. FAA drug and alcohol regulations prohibit pilots from consuming alcohol while on-duty or within eight hours of “performing flight duties.”
“FAA regulations also prohibit pilots from flying or attempting to fly an aircraft within eight hours of consuming alcohol or if they have an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater,” the FAA statement read. “The agency takes these matters seriously.”
USA TODAY has reached out to the NFTA and JetBlue for comment.
“The airline piloting profession in North America is one of the most highly scrutinized careers, and airline pilots’ professionalism has contributed to making air transportation the safest form of transport for passengers and air cargo shippers,” Air Line Pilots Association, International, the union for JetBlue pilots, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
This isn’t the first time a pilot has been taken off a flight for appearing to be intoxicated. Two United pilots in Scotland were arrested in 2019 on suspicions of intoxication. A week later, United changed their policy to require pilots abstain from drinking 12 hours before reporting for work.
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