BUFFALO, New York — A pilot was removed from a JetBlue flight in Buffalo Wednesday after police say he blew more than four times the legal limit for alcohol.
The 52-year-old pilot, James Clifton, may face federal charges.
Authorities say a TSA officer at Buffalo Niagara International Airport noticed the pilot was acting drunk, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority removed him from cockpit and gave him a Breathalyzer.
He reportedly registered a .17, twice the legal limit for driving in the U.S.
Pilots, however, face stricter blood alcohol level restrictions, with .04 being considered illegal.
Clifton, who is from Orlando, Florida, was taken into custody and released to JetBlue security, who notified federal authorities.
“The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority,” JetBlue said in a statement. “We adhere to all DOT rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero tolerance internal alcohol policy. We are aware of the incident that occurred this morning in Buffalo and are cooperating fully with law enforcement. We are also conducting our own internal investigation. The crewmember involved has been removed from his duties.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents JetBlue pilots, released the following statement:
“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.”
Meanwhile, the FAA says they are investigating the allegations:
“The FAA is investigating allegations that an airline pilot attempted to report for duty while under the influence of alcohol. The agency takes these matters seriously.”
FAA drug and alcohol regulation prohibits 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.
According to the police report, the pilot said he was not drinking the morning of the flight, but that he did have “5-6 drinks” at dinner the night before.
After being asked a third time he then said he drank 7-8 beverages.
While the pilot was in the interview room, the responding officer heard him say over the phone that he had consumed “Ten 22-ounce tall boys and left the restaurant around midnight.”
He has not been charged by NFTA.
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