A JetBlue pilot was pulled off a plane in Buffalo, New York, after allegedly blowing four times the legal limit for pilots on a breathalyzer test, according to Helen Tederous, public affairs director for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
The 52-year-old pilot blew a 0.17 on a breathalyzer test, police said -- well over the legal limit for pilots, which is 0.04.
According to the NFTA, a Transportation Security Administration officer noticed the pilot was acting drunk, and authorities removed him from the cockpit just before takeoff.
NFTA Airport Police took the man, who is from Orlando, Florida, into custody, and notified federal authorities, according to Tederous. He was released to JetBlue security and may face federal charges, she said.
The pilot denied drinking the morning of the flight, according to the police report, but claimed he drank 7-8 beverages the night before.
Tederous said the passengers on board were aware of what was occurring.
"It was right there, all unfolding in front of them," she said, "that had to be very unsettling for sure."
The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was delayed for over four hours.
In a statement, JetBlue said customers' and crewmembers' safety "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," the statement said. "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."
Experts say these incidents are rare.
"This is so very rare, but when it happens, it's the end of the career," ABC News' aviation analyst and former commercial pilot John Nance said. "This couldn't be more serious -- the idea of having anybody even slightly impaired in the commercial cockpit was all those lives behind you. And all those lives on the ground below you."