CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A pilot was pulled from the cockpit of a JetBlue flight scheduled to depart from Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning because he was under the influence of alcohol, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority confirmed to News 4.
The pilot had a blood alcohol content of 0.17%, a spokesperson said. He has been identified as James Clifton, 52, of Orlando. Clifton was cooperative with NFTA police, the spokesperson added. It is unclear whether charges are pending.
The incident caused a major delay for passengers on JetBlue flight 2465, which was scheduled to leave Buffalo for Fort Lauderdale at 6:15 a.m. but was held up more than four hours, airport records show. The plane didn’t take off until 10:25 a.m. and landed in Florida at 1:11 p.m.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration rulebook, pilots may not use alcohol within eight hours of a flight and may not have a blood alcohol content above 0.04%. An FAA pamphlet on pilot safety summarizes the rule as “8 hours from bottle to throttle.”
JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski told News 4 the pilot has been “removed from his duties,” the company is cooperating with law enforcement and conducting an internal 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. 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,” said Dombrowski.
“The FAA is investigating allegations that an airline pilot attempted to report for duty while under the influence of alcohol. The agency takes these matters seriously,” said the FAA.
Some airlines choose to set stricter rules for their employees. United Airlines, for example, reportedly changed its drinking cutoff for pilots to 12 hours before a flight.
This is a developing story, check back for more.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.