The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 4, 2013

American Eagle pilot arrested after failing breath test

— Airport police arrested an American Eagle pilot Friday after he failed a blood-alcohol breath test as he prepared to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul to New York City, authorities said.

The pilot was conducting preflight checks about 6:30 a.m. when airport police officers acting on a tip boarded the aircraft, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. Officers made him take a Breathalyzer test and arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol.

"There was a witness who smelled what they thought was alcohol on the pilot's breath and notified police," Hogan said. Passengers had not yet boarded the flight to La Guardia, New York City, he said.

The pilot has been suspended pending an investigation, according to Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, American Eagle's sister company. The airline is cooperating with authorities and will conduct an internal investigation, Miller said.

The flight was delayed about 2 ½ hours while a replacement pilot was arranged, he said.

After the pilot was taken to Fairview Southdale Hospital to have a blood sample taken for testing, he was returned to the custody of airport police, Hogan said.

The alcohol limit for flying is lower than for driving, Hogan said.

"In Minnesota, the legal limit for pilots is .04, much stricter than someone traveling on a road in the state," he said.

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