JetBlue Pilot Pulled from Cockpit on Suspicion of Being Drunk Was Twice Over Legal Limit: NFTA

A JetBlue spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE that the pilot involved has been removed from his duties

JetBlue Airways plane
JetBlue plane . Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

A JetBlue pilot is no longer flying for the airline after registering a blood alcohol content over twice the legal limit, and four times over for pilots, ahead of a recent flight.

On Wednesday morning, JetBlue pilot James Clifton was removed from the cockpit of a plane in Buffalo, New York, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said in a statement. The flight was bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A Transportation Security Administration officer told law enforcement that Clifton, 52, seemed "impaired" as he went through security, per NBC News. The NFTA said the pilot registered a BAC level of 0.17 – more than double the national standard of 0.08, and four times over the 0.04 limit for pilots, per federal regulations.

According to TSA spokeswoman Helen Tederous, Clifton told authorities he had between seven and eight drinks before boarding the flight, per NBC.

Alcohol Test Cockpit Breathalyzer
Getty Images

The NFTA said that airport police took Clifton into custody after the portable breathalyzer test and informed federal authorities. The Orlando, Florida man may now face federal charges.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, a rep for JetBlue confirmed that Clifton had been relieved of his duties and that the airline was cooperating authorities on the ongoing investigation.

"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," spokesperson Derek Dombrowski said.

"We are aware of the incident that occurred in Buffalo Wednesday and are cooperating fully with law enforcement. We are also conducting our own internal investigation," he continued. "The crew member involved has been removed from his duties."

The Buffalo Police Department and TSA did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Tederous told NBC that Clifton agreed to take the breathalyzer test after telling authorities that he needed to get his gun from the cockpit of the plane. While pilots can carry weapons on planes under the condition that they are certified, it remains unclear if Clifton has this permission.

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