Pilot Tests Positive for Alcohol, Arrested Before Take-Off

TSA officials noted smell of alcohol on commercial airline pilot's breath.
2:33 | 01/05/13

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Transcript for Pilot Tests Positive for Alcohol, Arrested Before Take-Off
We turn, now, to the two, shocking back-to-back stories about alcohol and airlines. In one case, passengers took matters into their own hands, going to extremes to restrain a drunk passenger. And the other case, a pilot was arrested before takeoff when someone smelled alcohol on his breath. First up, abc's lisa stark joins us from reagan national airport outside washington, with details about that pilot. Good morning, lisa. Reporter: Good morning, bianna. It was just in the nick of time. This pilot was set to fly a planeload of passengers from minneapolis to new york. Luckily, because of some very alert officials, that never happened. The pilot had already passed through security at the minneapolis airport. And was waiting for an elevator, when a tsa agent, and other officers happened by and smelled what they thought was alcohol. They alerted airport police, who caught up with 48-year-old captain, just before 53 passengers would have boarded the american eagle flight to new york. Police say christensen failed a preliminary alcohol breath test. He was arrested. Neighbors of the pilot were shocked at the news. Seemed to be very quiet. But he was a regular, family guy. Reporter: It's not known what the tests showed. But the legal limit for pilots is 0.04, half the limit for drivers. And equaling roughly two drinks for an average-sized man. The airlines take zero tolerance of showing up with liquor in the bloom. Reporter: One of hollywood's current hit movies, "flight," focuses on a drunk pilot that pulls off a miraculous crash landing. But he doesn't stay a hero for long. Pilots can lose their license and get jail time. Up to 15 years in extreme krass. In 2002, two america west pilots were caught on tape, partying and drinking for hours the night before their flight. The next morning, tsa screeners smelled alcohol on their breath. The pilots were arrested, convicted, sent to jail. As for the american flight, the airline scrambled to find a replacement pilot. Passengers finally arrived in new york more than two hours late, shocked to learn then what had really happened. I'm feeling very unsafe. Reporter: Christensen has now been grounded, pending a full investigation. But the associated press, quoting an airline spokesman says, that he was well above the legal limit for that initial breath test, at least.

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