Drunk JetBlue Pilot Removed Before Takeoff, Blood Alcohol Content Was Over 4 Times Legal Limit to Fly

A JetBlue pilot was removed the cockpit shortly before takeoff after he reportedly seemed drunk. A test of his BAC later confirmed that to be true.

Photo of a JetBlue plane from the outside.

A JetBlue Airways plane prepares to board passengers.

Photo of a JetBlue plane from the outside.

A JetBlue pilot was grounded shortly before takeoff from Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday after he appeared to be too drunk to fly, The Buffalo News reports

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, or NFTA, police were called after TSA agents noticed that James Clifton, 52, seemed to be impaired as he passed through security. Clifton was sitting in the cockpit of the Fort Lauderdale-bound flight when he was removed from the plane. A breathalyzer later determined that his blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent, four times the legal limit to fly, as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration.  

According to WIVB, the flight was scheduled to leave at 6:15 a.m., but didn’t depart until 10:25 a.m. 

“The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority,” JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski said in a statement. “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 crewmember involved has been removed from his duties,” the statement concluded.  

The FAA rulebook stipulates that a pilot cannot have a blood alcohol content above 0.04 percent and should not consume alcohol eight hours prior to their flight. The rule is summed up as “8 hours from bottle to throttle.” WIVB notes United Airlines keeps a stricter cutoff point, demanding that their pilots abstain from drinking 12 hours beforehand. 

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