Orlando-based JetBlue pilot removed from cockpit ahead of takeoff for being drunk, officials say

ORLANDO, Fla. — An Orlando-based JetBlue pilot was arrested ahead of takeoff after registering twice the legal drinking limit, according to officials.

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James Clifton, 52, was passing through security at the Buffalo when a TSA officer noticed he may have been impaired, according to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Airport police were contacted and the pilot was removed from the cockpit, officials said.

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Clifton was given a portable breathalyzer test and registered a .17, or twice the legal limit. He was taken into custody and notified federal authorities and released to JetBlue security.

Clifton could face federal charges, officials said.

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In a statement, JetBlue said:

“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.”

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The FAA said it takes these matters seriously and is investigating the allegations.

FAA drug and alcohol regulation prohibits pilots from consuming alcohol while on duty within eight hours of performing flight duties. Regulations also prohibit pilots from flying or attempting to fly an aircraft within eight hours of consuming alcohol or if they have an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater, the FAA said.

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.