Saturday, March 26, 2016

American Airlines calls arrest of pilot 'serious matter,' apologizes to customers

ROMULUS, MI – American Airlines has released a statement in response to questions about a pilot arrested Saturday morning at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on suspicion of attempting to co-pilot a plan while intoxicated.

"This is a serious matter and we are assisting local law enforcement and the Federal Aviation Administration with the investigation. We will handle this matter appropriately as the safety and care of our customers and employees is our highest priority."

The airline cancelled its Flight 736, which was scheduled to leave at 6:55 a.m. for Philadelphia. Its customers are being reaccomodated on other flights, said airline spokeswoman Laura Nedbal.

"We apologize to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans."

Out of respect for the employee's privacy, further details are not being released.

The co-pilot, in his early 50s and from Pennsylvania, exhibited behavior that led to suspicion he might have been drinking while going through crew checks with the Transportation Security Administration, said Michael Conway, airport director for public affairs.

Airport police, contacted by TSA personnel about 6:40 a.m. March 26, responded and administered a field Breathalyzer, which the employee failed, Conway said. He was then taken to a "local jurisdiction" with a more sophisticated testing mechanism and also failed that test, Conway said.

He had allegedly intended to co-pilot the plane with an alcohol level beyond the legal limit, Conway said. He would not release the man's alcohol level or name. The investigation is ongoing and police are still developing evidence, he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits anyone from operating or attempting to operate an aircraft with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or greater.

Everyone was shuffled off the plane because of what was said to be a problem with the co-pilot chair, said one passenger, Kristyn Bradley of Grosse Pointe Woods, who was headed to the Dominican Republic for spring break. "It was quite chaotic," she said.

She is glad to be safe and grateful the co-pilot was not allowed to fly. It is frightening to think he had the mindset it would be OK to go to work in such a condition. "It's pretty scary."

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