WASHINGTON (CNN) — A pilot in Minnesota who was preparing to fly a commercial jet halfway across the country has been arrested after a witness smelled alcohol on the pilot and he failed a preliminary breath test, an airport spokesman said Friday.
The arrest happened Friday morning as American Eagle flight 4590 was preparing to take off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International for LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Police were tipped off by a witness who claimed to have smelled alcohol on the pilot, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan told CNN. The pilot was taken to a hospital for blood tests.
Fifty-three passengers were scheduled to be on board the Bombardier CRJ700 regional jet for the flight. However, Hogan said none were aboard at the time of the arrest.
“American Eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first,” airline spokesman Matt Miller told CNN in a statement. “We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation.”
The pilot is being withheld from service until the investigation is completed, he said.
Flight 4590 eventually arrived in New York, with a different crew at the controls, nearly 2½ hours late, according to American Airlines’ website.
FAA regulations say “No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft … within eight hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage,” and a pilot’s blood alcohol concentration is limited to .04%.
For comparison, drivers are often limited to the higher .08%.