Just as drinking and driving is not to be tolerated, boozing and piloting a plane is also frowned upon by law enforcement, especially if you happen to be a commercial pilot about to fly a whole lot of passengers thousands of miles. An American Eagle pilot was removed from a plane he was preparing to fly from Minneapolis to New York City early this morning and arrested after failing an alcohol-breath test.
Authorities say the pilot was going about his business and doing preflight checks at 6:30 a.m. today on the aircraft at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, when police received a tip that something might be amiss.
“There was a witness who smelled what they thought was alcohol on the pilot’s breath and notified police,” said an airport spokesman (via the Associated Press), adding that passengers hadn’t yet boarded the flight.
Officers boarded the aircraft and administered a Breathalyzer test, which showed he was likely too intoxicated to fly. The legal blood-alcohol limit to pilot a plane in Minnesota is lower than to drive on the road, at 0.04 instead of 0.08, pointed out the airport spokesman.
The plane took off about two and a half hours later, after the airline located a new pilot to fly the aircraft. As for the pilot, he’s been suspended pending an investigation, says an American Airlines spokesman.
While this is surely just an isolated incident, it makes us wonder what could’ve happened if the witness hadn’t piped up. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too out of bounds for plane’s be equipped with a system that tests sobriety before the pilot is allowed to take to the skies, sort of like ignition locking devices in cars. Just a thought.
UPDATE: Consumerist reader Scott points out that the 0.04% limit isn’t just in Minnesota, but as a Federal Aviation Administration regulation, is in fact a federal rule that applies to all states and the District of Columbia. You also can’t drink within eight hours of when you’re scheduled to fly a plane.