Fort Lauderdale, FL

Drunk Pilot Removed From Cockpit of a JetBlue Flight to Fort Lauderdale – He Was Four Times the Legal Alcohol Limit

Toby Hazlewood

He had downed a number of drinks before boarding

A pilot for JetBlue was removed from the cockpit of a plane on March 2 after TSA agents suspected he was drunk while passing through airport security on his way to board.

The pilot - James Clifton, 52, of Orlando - was due to fly the aircraft and its passengers from Buffalo to Fort Lauderdale. After removing him from the plane, local police administered a Breathalyzer test and registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.17% - four times the legal limit.

According to FAA guidance, a pilot would be removed from duty if they have a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more - half the legal limit for driving in the United States. Pilots also are not allowed to drink any alcohol within eight hours of acting or attempting to act as a crew member.

Drunk crew and passengers are both problematic

Whatever led Clifton to disregard FAA guidance, it seems likely that he will regret his actions which may well cost him his career.

It's acknowledged that the presence of drunk passengers on board a plane can be inconvenient for crew and passengers alike, but at least they're not in control of the aircraft. And yet, many passengers too, disregard guidance that they shouldn't fly while intoxicated.

A couple were recently removed from a Delta Flight departing from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. The woman had been drunkenly arguing with crew aboard the plane for almost an hour and a half before it had even left the ground. She was eventually removed from the aircraft after delaying its departure and apparently (according to witnesses) "cursing like a sailor".

Removed from duties

A statement was issued by JetBlue corporate communications immediately following the incident:

"The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority. We adhere to all DOT rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero tolerance internal alcohol policy. We are aware of the incident that occurred this morning in Buffalo and are cooperating fully with law enforcement. We are also conducting our own internal investigation. The crew member involved has been removed from his duties."

Clifton may yet face federal charges.

Have you ever witnessed inebriated passengers (or crew) aboard a flight? Let me know in the comments section below.

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