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JetBlue pilot removed from cockpit after breathalyzer test

A JetBlue plane
Seth Wenig/AP via NPR
File photo of a JetBlue airplane.

A JetBlue airline pilot was removed from the cockpit of the plane he was about to fly to Fort Lauderdale, FL from Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning, after Transportation Security Administration agents noticed that he might be impaired as he passed through airport security.

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police were called by TSA and James Clifton, 52, of Orlando, FL was removed from the cockpit.

Authorities said he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.17% in a breathalyzer test, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%. The pilot was taken into police custody, and then released to JetBlue security.

Federal charges may be pending against Clifton. The FAA told NPR it "is investigating allegations that an airline pilot attempted to report for duty while under the influence of alcohol. The agency takes these matters seriously."

The FAA prohibits pilots from consuming alcohol while on duty or within eight hours of performing flight duties. FAA regulations also prohibit pilots from flying or attempting to fly an aircraft if their alcohol concentration is 0.04% or greater.

JetBlue Flight 2465 was scheduled to depart Buffalo at 6:15 a.m. but was delayed more than four hours, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

In a statement, JetBlue promised an internal investigation and said "the crewmember involved has been removed from his duties."

NPR's Jeff Dean contributed to this story.