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Police: Pilot Showed Up To Work After Drinking

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By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — AirTran is figuring out what to do with a pilot who showed up to work after drinking.

Police arrested the pilot Saturday before a 5:45 a.m. AirTran flight at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International took off for Milwaukee, Wis.

“There was an AirTran pilot who was going through the security checkpoint and a TSA agent thought he smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath so they contacted airport police,” said Pat Hogan of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The pilot was already on the plane when Airport Police found him. They gave him a preliminary breathalyzer test and registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.05, slightly above the legal limit for pilots which is 0.04. The legal limit for drivers in Minnesota is 0.08.

“If somebody has been drinking, and they’re beyond the limit, they shouldn’t be flying an airplane. So that’s what we’re trying to determine through additional testing is whether or not this person was above the limit,” Hogan said.

It could take another month for the additional tests, which are being done at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, to come back AirTran says it is working with local officials to determine legal action against the pilot.

“That’s what we’re trying to determine at this point, through additional testing , is whether or not this person was, in fact, above the limit,” Hogan said.

No charges have been filed, but AirTran said the pilot won’t be flying while the incident is investigated.

Pilots in the past have gone to prison for alcohol-related offenses, including two pilots who were legally drunk when they showed up to work to fly an America West jet in Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration said 11 pilots violated federal regulations for alcohol in 2009.

It could be weeks, perhaps months, till it’s known whether the pilot arrested Saturday violated federal laws. The pilot’s name and other details involving the case will not be made public under the investigation is over.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Steve Murphy Reports

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