MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An American Eagle pilot was suspended after failing a blood-alcohol test as he prepared to fly on Friday to New York City from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, authorities said.
Airport police said officers and a Transportation Security Administration agent smelled alcohol as they passed the pilot waiting to get on an elevator. The pilot was conducting preflight checks at about 6 a.m. when police boarded the aircraft, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
Officers made him take a breath test and arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol, Hogan said. Passengers had not yet boarded the flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport, he said.
The 48-year-old pilot was released several hours later to airline employees. Hogan said airport police will wait until blood tests are processed before deciding whether to file charges against him.
Federal rules prohibit pilots from flying within eight hours of drinking alcohol or if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or higher, half the level allowed for motorists. Police haven't released the pilot's initial test results.
The pilot has been suspended pending an investigation, said Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, which uses American Eagle to operate shorter connecting flights. Both airlines are owned by AMR Corp.
The company is cooperating with authorities and will conduct an internal investigation, Miller said.
A woman who answered the phone at a North Carolina number listed in the pilot's name referred inquiries to the Air Line Pilots Association, his union. She said he has been a member of the union for 23 years, but declined further comment.
Messages left with union officials were not immediately returned.