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Pilot arrested after security agent smells alcohol

By Aaron Cooper, CNN
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri January 4, 2013
Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen was arrested Friday morning at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen was arrested Friday morning at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A bombardier CRJ700 regional jet was set to fly to New York from Minneapolis-St. Paul airport
  • The pilot was taken to a hospital for blood testing and is being withheld from work
  • The flight arrived in New York with a different crew and nearly 2½ hours late, airline says
  • Airline: "We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation"

Washington (CNN) -- A pilot in Minnesota who was preparing to fly a commercial jet halfway across the country was arrested after a security agent smelled alcohol on him and he failed a preliminary breath test, airport police said Friday.

The arrest of Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, 48, happened Friday morning as American Eagle Flight 4590 was preparing to take off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International for LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Officers and a Transportation Security Administration agent "detected the odor of a consumed alcohol beverage as they passed by Kristiansen waiting to enter the elevator," according to a Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Police Department report.

The pilot was taken to a hospital for blood tests, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan told CNN. He was released to airline personnel and charges are pending, according to the airport police report.

Fifty-three passengers were scheduled to be on board the Bombardier CRJ700 regional jet for the flight. However, Hogan said none were aboard at the time of the arrest.

"American Eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first," American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller told CNN in a written statement. "We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation."

The pilot is being withheld from service until the investigation is completed, he said.

Flight 4590 eventually arrived in New York, with a different crew at the controls, nearly 2½ hours late, according to American Airlines' website.

FAA regulations say, "No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft ... within eight hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage," and a pilot's blood alcohol concentration is limited to .04%.

For comparison, drivers are often limited to the higher .08%.

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CNN's Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report.

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