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Co-pilot arrested on alcohol charges

Southwest first officer taken from cockpit after raising suspicions

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Air Transportation
Transportation Security Administration
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(CNN) -- Authorities in Utah ordered a Southwest Airlines co-pilot out of the cockpit of his Arizona-bound jet shortly before takeoff Sunday morning and jailed him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol, FBI and airline officials said.

Carl Fulton, 41, of Fort Worth, Texas, faces federal charges of operating a plane under the influence of alcohol, said Special Agent Pat Kiernan, an FBI spokesman in Salt Lake City.

Fulton was slated to fly as the first officer on a Southwest flight from Salt Lake City to Phoenix at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Transportation Security Administration screeners had him followed to the flight's departure gate after noticing Fulton smelled of alcohol while going through security about a half-hour before takeoff, Kiernan said.

Fulton has worked for Southwest for two years and has no previous offenses, airline spokeswoman Paula Berg told CNN. He will be placed on leave until an investigation is complete, she said.

When Fulton boarded the aircraft and went to the cockpit, airport police followed him onto the flight deck and asked him to come to the terminal for questioning, Kiernan said. The flight, which had 123 passengers aboard, left 15 minutes late, Berg said.

FBI agents and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration joined the questioning, and Fulton was given two breath tests before his arrest, Kiernan said.

He described the jailed flier as "cooperative," but he disclosed no details of the questioning or the test results. Federal prosecutors plan to file charges against Fulton on Monday morning, and he will have an initial court appearance at a yet-undetermined time, Kiernan said.

The charge he faces carries a top sentence of up to 15 years in prison, Kiernan said.

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