CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A pilot was pulled from the cockpit of a JetBlue flight scheduled to depart from Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning because he was under the influence of alcohol, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said.
The pilot had a blood alcohol content of 0.17%, a spokesperson said. He has been identified as James Clifton, 52, of Orlando, Florida. Clifton was cooperative with NFTA police, the spokesperson added.
It was not clear whether charges were pending Wednesday.
“The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority,” the airline said in a statement Wednesday. “We adhere to all DOT rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero-tolerance internal alcohol policy. We are aware of the incident that occurred this morning in Buffalo and are cooperating fully with law enforcement. We are also conducting our own internal investigation. The crewmember involved has been removed from his duties.”
The incident caused a major delay for passengers on JetBlue flight 2465, which was scheduled to leave Buffalo for Fort Lauderdale at 6:15 a.m. but was held up more than four hours, airport records show. The plane didn’t take off until 10:25 a.m. and landed in Florida at 1:11 p.m.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration rulebook, pilots may not use alcohol within eight hours of a flight and may not have a blood alcohol content above 0.04%. An FAA pamphlet on pilot safety summarizes the rule as “8 hours from bottle to throttle.”
Some airlines choose to set stricter rules for their employees. United Airlines, for example, reportedly changed its drinking cutoff for pilots to 12 hours before a flight.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from JetBlue.