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Delta Scrubs Newark Flight; Pilot Arrested on Alcohol

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Delta Air Lines Inc. said it canceled a flight from Amsterdam to Newark, New Jersey, because of concern that a crew member was “unfit for duty.”

Flight 35 was scrubbed, the crew member was suspended and passengers will be rebooked on an extra plane tomorrow, Anthony Black, a Delta spokesman, said today in an e-mail. Dutch police said a 52-year-old airline captain from New Jersey was arrested on an alcohol charge, without identifying his employer.

Authorities pulled the pilot off his plane after receiving an anonymous tip that he was drunk, said Jos Klaren, a spokesman for the police. A breath test showed the pilot’s blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit, Klaren said.

“Delta’s policy is that pilots shall not report for duty with the presence of any alcohol in their system,” Black said.

The arrest was at least the third involving a U.S. pilot and alcohol in 16 months. In November, a United Airlines pilot was charged with operating an aircraft under the influence after failing a breath test at London’s Heathrow airport. An American Airlines pilot was arrested at Heathrow in May 2009 after he smelled of alcohol before a flight to Chicago.

Klaren said the pilot at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport had pulled away from the gate when police came to meet the plane. Dutch prosecutors fined the man 700 euros ($910), Klaren said.

Delta’s Black declined to elaborate on why the crew member on Flight 35 wasn’t judged to be fit to fly, or to say whether the person was a pilot or flight attendant. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on alcohol include a ban on any drinking by a pilot within eight hours of a flight.

Flight 35 was due to depart Schiphol at 2 p.m. local time and arrive at Newark at 4:30 p.m., according to Delta’s website, which showed the trip’s status as “canceled,” without elaborating.

Delta declined to say how many people were on board or to identify the type of plane. The flight was supposed to use a Boeing Co. 767, according to industry website FlightStats.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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