American Eagle Pilot Faces Attempted-Drunk-Flying Charges

An American Eagle pilot who police said showed up for a flight out of a Minnesota airport smelling of alcohol was charged with attempting to operate a plane while under the influence.

The pilot, Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, 48, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was charged today in a complaint filed at the Hennepin County court in Minneapolis. He was arrested Jan. 4 on a jetway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after exiting the cockpit of a plane scheduled to leave for New York, according to a police detective’s statement filed with the complaint.

Airport police had followed him and three other pilots after one officer smelled alcohol as he exited an elevator and the pilots were entering it. Kristiansen admitted that he intended to fly the plane, the detective said.

“There will be an issue as to whether he made any attempt to fly an aircraft,” Kristiansen’s lawyer, Peter Wold, said today in a phone interview. No court appearance has been scheduled, Wold said.

American Eagle is a regional carrier of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp., which also operates American Airlines.

“The pilot involved in this matter continues to be withheld from service,” Matt Miller, an airline spokesman, said in a statement. “American Eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first.”

Twice Limit

Kristiansen had a blood-alcohol level of 0.09, or more than twice the limit allowed for commercial pilots under Minnesota law, according to Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the state’s Metropolitan Airports Commission.

Kristiansen is charged with three counts relating to attempting to operate an aircraft with an alcohol content of 0.04 or more, each punishable by as long as one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

His arrest came less than a year after a JetBlue Airways pilot’s erratic behavior during a New York to Las Vegas flight caused his co-pilot to bar him from the cockpit and have him restrained. The pilot, Clayton Osbon, was released in November after having been found not guilty by reason of insanity of interfering with his flight crew.

The case is State of Minnesota v. Kristiansen, Hennepin County District Court, 4th Judicial District (Minneapolis).

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