Pilot from Raleigh fails alcohol test, suspended

Posted January 4, 2013

— An American Eagle pilot from Raleigh was suspended after failing a blood-alcohol test as he prepared to fly on Friday from Minneapolis to New York City, authorities said.

The pilot was conducting preflight checks about 6:30 a.m. when airport police officers acting on a tip boarded the aircraft, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. Officers made him take a Breathalyzer test and arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol.

"There was a witness who smelled what they thought was alcohol on the pilot's breath and notified police," Hogan said. Passengers had not yet boarded the flight to La Guardia, New York City, he said.

When tested, Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen had a blood alcohol level of .04. 

American Eagle Raleigh pilot suspected of drinking

Federal rules prohibit pilots from flying within eight hours of drinking alcohol or if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or higher, half the level allowed for motorists.

"In Minnesota, the legal limit for pilots is .04, much stricter than someone traveling on a road in the state," he said. 

Kristiansen, 48, who lives in the 11000 block of Paddy Hollow Lane in Raleigh, has been suspended pending an investigation, according to Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, American Eagle's sister company.

The airline is cooperating with authorities and will conduct an internal investigation, Miller said.

No one answered the door at Kristiansen's north Raleigh home, and his neighbors declined to comment about the situation.

"American Eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first," Miller said. "The pilot will be withheld from service pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Airport police said charges against Kristiansen are pending.

Flight 4590 was delayed about 2 ½ hours while a replacement pilot was arranged, he said. Miller said the 53 passengers left Minneapolis-St. Paul at 8:50 a.m. and arrived safely in New York at 12:15 p.m.

American Eagle passengers of other flights were shocked to hear the news of Kristiansen's arrest.

"I'm glad I wasn't on that flight! 6, 6:30 in the morning? That's crazy. That's ridiculous," said Linda Singh.

After the pilot was taken to Fairview Southdale Hospital to have a blood sample taken for testing, he was returned to the custody of airport police, Hogan said.

Pilots face drug and alcohol testing when they seek a job, are involved in an accident or return from alcohol rehabilitation. Some are selected for random tests. More than 10,000 pilots are tested each year and about a dozen flunk the alcohol part — a number that has remained mostly steady for more than a decade, according to federal statistics.

Aviation attorney Brian Alexander reiterated: alcohol and aviation are a terrible mix.

"You have to understand it will slow your reaction time. It will, in fact, affect your judgment. You have to take that into consideration and be at the top of your game," he said.


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  • QuirkyJules Jan 8, 2013

    The story reports he was doing his walk-around, which means it was likely at least 30-45 minutes before the plane would have been pushed back from the gate. His blood alcohol was 0.04% when tested and anything below 0.04% would have been legal. In other words, by the time he was actually flying, he wouldn't have been outside the legal limit. This does not make it okay, and could have been illegal still for other reasons and certainly showed poor judgement, but if you see a stumbling drunk in your mind's eye when you read this story, you should reassess what you read and believe without thinking.

  • btneast Jan 7, 2013

    and came to the airport without eating any breakfast

    Yep, getting some food into your stomach makes a huge difference in BAC.

  • Commentor113 Jan 7, 2013

    It's pretty easy to blow a .04. My guess is he had one too many the night before, probably woke up with a bit of a hangover and came to the airport without eating any breakfast.I doubt he was drinking at 6 a.m. like some have suggested.

    It's still unprofessional and certainly not the kind of behavior we want from the people piloting our planes. But, it's also something the majority of workers have done at one time or another also. Probably even some doctors.

  • ConservativeVoter Jan 7, 2013

    This should be a requirement for pilots for all flights.

    Too many times, I've seen pilots sitting in the bar in the airport.

    Makes you wonder.

  • Uhavenoclu Jan 7, 2013

    Just put it on auto pilot...Many cargo flights especially going overseas have a small part behind the cockpit where the pilots go in and sleep...Yes even sleep during the commercial flights,especially the flight attendants...unless like some you are lucky eniugh to join their club.

  • piene2 Jan 7, 2013

    "Guess things are different now, when my father, an alcoholic was flying B25's at the age of 19 and got his tail shotoff more than once, over the Pacific in WWII he said they never knew when they got called to fly. Get up and go no matter what shape your in was the story he told me, thats only when I could get him to talk about it. He got a DWI once and I guess he should have been out there on the Chaingang in a pink suit.

    "During world War One, early open cocpit (forced by censor to misspell) aircraft engines were lubricated with caster oil the fumes of which had a strong laxative effect on the pilots. They were told to load up on blackberry brandy before taking off to "stun the bowels."

  • btneast Jan 7, 2013

    No you cannot do anything more than create an estimate. The idea that blood alcohol can be accurately measured with the breath sounds reasonable but if it truly was accurate then there would be no need for the required blood or urine tests. You are assuming

    No, it is based on reams of scientific data. Breathalyzers were challenged when they came out years ago, and have proven to the courts that they are accurate enough. Blood testing is more precise, but it is rarely far off from a breathalyzer, assuming it is calibrated....which operators are required to do frequently.

  • Big Mike Jan 4, 2013

    Makes you wonder just how many pilots are flying that haven't been detected...and by the way..hope you enjoyed the barrel roll from last months flight to...........

  • anne53ozzy Jan 4, 2013

    Interesting yet again there has to be a "birther" issue here when it is not important.

  • dwr1964 Jan 4, 2013

    Scandinavian I'd think...Most citizens in Minneapolis/St.Paul have Swedish, Norweign, Danish heritages..but regardless...he shouldn't have shown up crocked to fly a plane......Big Mike

    Did you even attempt to read the part about him being from RALEIGH???? Geesh. Some people huh?