Passengers who were supposed to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul to New York's LaGuardia airport Friday morning may be relieved to know that they were delayed for good reason: Their pilot might have been drunk.
American Eagle crew members were getting ready for their flight at about 6 a.m. -- before any passengers had boarded -- when someone suspected the pilot, identified as Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, had been drinking, the Associated Press reports.
"A witness smelled what they believed was alcohol on the breath of a pilot this morning," Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, told the AP. "Airport police followed up and conducted a breathalyzer. The pilot did fail the breathalyzer test, and was taken to Fairview Southdale hospital for blood tests."
According to ABC News, American Eagle said in a statement that it has a "well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first."
"We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation. The pilot will be withheld from service pending the outcome of the investigation," the airline continued, according to the report. The pilot was returned to airport police custody following his visit to the hospital.
Drunk passengers aren't altogether uncommon -- a supposedly intoxicated man traveling from Iceland was reportedly restrained by flight crew members after harassing passengers earlier this week -- but cases involving pilots suspected to be under the influence don't seem to pop up as often.
According to the AP, pilots are not allowed to fly within eight hours of drinking alcohol; they also can't have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher. About 10,000 pilots are tested for drugs and alcohol each year; about a dozen don't pass the alcohol portion, the report notes.
Still, when pilots do drink and get caught, they're sure to make headlines.
In 2002, two allegedly drunk pilots operating a plane with 124 passengers were on their way to taxi when the plane was called back and they were arrested. In 2011, a United Express pilot was sentenced to six months in prison after he flew a plane from Austin, Texas, to Denver while under the influence.
More recently, a plane operated by two reportedly intoxicated pilots crashed in Russia, killing 10 of the 14 people who were on board.