An American Eagle pilot preparing for a flight to New York on Friday morning was arrested on board an aircraft at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol, an airport spokesman said.
"The pilot was in the process of doing the pre-flight check and a witness had smelled alcohol on the pilot's breath," airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
Hogan said the man failed a breath test administered by airport police and was taken to a local hospital for a blood alcohol test. Results of the blood test could take weeks. He did not know the results of the breath test.
The blood alcohol threshold for pilots is 0.04 under Federal Aviation Administration rules, about half of what it would be for a private motorist.
Airport police said in a statement that charges were pending against pilot Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, 48, of Raleigh, North Carolina. He was released to airline personnel on his own recognizance, police said.
Officers and a Transportation Security Administration agent at an airport checkpoint "detected the odor of a consumed alcohol beverage" as they passed Kristiansen, who was arrested just before 6 a.m. (1200 GMT), police said.
The pilot could not be reached immediately for comment. American Eagle, a regional carrier for AMR Corp's American Airlines, was operating the flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport.
The arrest happened before passengers boarded the airplane. The flight had been scheduled to leave at 6:10 a.m. and was delayed by more than 2-1/2 hours.
"We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation," American Eagle said in a statement. "The pilot will be withheld from service pending the outcome of the investigation."