‘Drunk’ pilot removed from plane in Buffalo with BAC twice the legal limit

A JetBlue pilot was yanked from a cockpit minutes before takeoff from an airport in upstate New York on Wednesday and reportedly had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit for flying.

James Clifton, 52, took a breathalyzer after police officers removed him from the plane bound for Fort Lauderdale from Buffalo Niagara International Airport, a spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said The Buffalo News.

The Orlando, Fla. resident was said to be visibly intoxicated as he went through security before boarding the plane, prompting Transportation Security Administration agents to call police, the report said.

According to a partially redacted NFTA police report obtained by The Post, the pilot, who had a registered firearm that he brought through the gates, appeared “open” to TSA employees.

Detail shot of an alcohol test in the cockpit with an alcohol tester.
The pilot took a breathalyzer after police removed it from the plane.
Fabian Gysel

Clifton denied drinking the morning before the flight but eventually admitted he had up to “7-8” drunks at a bar the previous night, the police report said.

A colleague who had joined the pilot for dinner told police that Clifton did not answer the phone Wednesday morning or show up when a shuttle arrived at her hotel to take her to the airport on Wednesday morning, the police report said. He later took an Uber to the airport, the report says.

His blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent, which is twice the 0.08 percent limit for driving and four times the 0.04 percent BAC limit imposed on pilots under Federal Aviation Administration regulations WIVB TV.

Jet Blue airplane
James Clifton was reportedly tipsy as he went through security before boarding the plane.
Seth Little

The flight, originally scheduled to leave Buffalo at 6:15 a.m., was delayed four hours and 10 minutes, according to the flight tracking site According to the website, it arrived in Florida at 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday.

He was not charged with any local violations, but the incident was reported to federal authorities, the police report said. A JetBlue spokesman said the pilot had been relieved of his duties.

“The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crew is our top priority,” spokesman Derek Dombrowski said in an email to The Post. “We stick to everyone [Department of Transportation] rules and requirements regarding alcohol at all times and have a very strict internal zero tolerance alcohol policy.

“We are aware of the incident that occurred in Buffalo this morning and are cooperating fully with law enforcement,” the spokesman added. “We are also conducting our own internal investigation.” ‘Drunk’ pilot removed from plane in Buffalo with BAC twice the legal limit


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