Allegedly Drunk Pilot Arrested Before Flight in South Dakota

PHOTO: A SkyWest CRJ200 jet shown in flight. PlaySkyWest airlines
WATCH Flight Delayed After Pilot Arrested

A SkyWest Airlines pilot was arrested this morning for operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol in Rapid City, South Dakota, just prior to a flight to Salt Lake City, according to the city's police department.

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Transportation Security Administration officers said they smelled alcohol on the pilot as he went through the checkpoint at Rapid City Regional Airport this morning and that's when they called police, according to authorities.

Police said they were alerted to the issue shortly after 8 a.m. and responded to the airport. Officers found Russel Duszak, 38, going through his pre-flight preparations in the cockpit of the aircraft. The Rapid City Police Department did not immediately release his BAC, but say he had a blood-alcohol level that exceeded the legal limit of .04 percent.

Operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol in South Dakota is a class 1 misdemeanor, according to the Pennington County Jail. Duszak has been released after paying a $300 bond.

The flight was SkyWest 4574, operating as Delta Connection from Rapid City to Salt Lake City, according to SkyWest. The airline has placed the pilot on administrative leave and removed him from flying duties as it investigates.

It was the pilot's first scheduled flight of the day. There were 45 people on the flight.

"SkyWest holds its employees to the highest standards of professionalism and the safety and security of our customers and people are our top priority," the airline said in a statement.

The airline added that it apologizes for the delay to its passengers.

Karl Jegeris, the police chief of the Rapid City Police Department, tweeted, "The system worked the way it is designed to ensure passengers safety was not compromised."