American Eagle Pilot Arrested After Failing Alcohol Test

A pilot for AMR Corp.’s American Eagle regional airline was arrested after failing an alcohol breath test before a flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport from Minneapolis.

Passengers hadn’t yet boarded the jet for yesterday’s 6:10 a.m. departure when officers and a Transportation Security Administration agent smelled alcohol when they walked past the pilot, according to a police report and an airport spokesman. Airport police administered the breath test.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibits pilots from flying while under the influence of alcohol, specifically when their blood alcohol content is 0.04 percent or higher, or within eight hours of consuming any alcoholic drinks.

AMR’s alcohol policies are “more stringent than the FAA’s,” Matt Miller, a spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR, said in an e-mail. “We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation.”

The arrested pilot is being suspended from flying until the inquiry is completed, Miller said. Flight 4590 carried 53 people.

Another pilot was brought in to make the trip, said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which oversees Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The pilot, Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, 48, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was arrested about 6 a.m. local time, according to the police report. The pilot was taken to a hospital for blood-alcohol screening after the breath test, Hogan said.

Late Departure

The plane, a Bombardier Inc. CRJ-700 regional jet, left Minneapolis about 2 1/2 hours late and arrived at LaGuardia at 12:15 p.m. local time.

Air carriers conduct tests for alcohol and drug use in a variety of circumstances, including pre-employment screening, random checks and post-accident exams, according to Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman. These tests also include checks for “reasonable suspicion/cause,” she said in an e-mail.

Such screening among carriers found 183 pilot-alcohol violations from 1995 through 2011, or an average of about 11 a year, according to FAA data.

In 2010, Delta Air Lines Inc. scrubbed a flight to New Jersey’s Newark airport after a tipster spurred police in Amsterdam to pull the pilot off his jet on suspicion of being drunk. The pilot’s blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit, Dutch police said.

In 2009, American and United Airlines each had pilots arrested in London before flights to the U.S. after failing alcohol tests.

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