American Co-Pilot Drunk at the Airport Today, Arrested

The co-pilot for American Airlines flight 738 this morning from Detroit to Philadephia was arrested on suspicion of being drunk.

The TSA reported that the co-pilot appeared inebriated while passing through the security checkpoint and police were called. The co-pilot failed a breathalyzer test and was arrested and then released after he had sobered up.

Apparently though the co-pilot made it on to the aircraft, because passengers reported watching him being removed from the plane.

Passengers were re-accommodated on other flights after the 6:59 a.m. departure was cancelled.

Kristyn Bradley of Grosse Pointe Woods was on the flight with a group of Grosse Pointe North High School students and parents headed to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for spring break. Their departure has now been delayed until Sunday morning.

“His bad decision has certainly caused a lot of people some pain,” Bradley said of the co-pilot.

Considering the flight attendant caught at the crew screening checkpoint with cocaine at LAX and now the TSA catching a drunk co-pilot, and they aren’t very good at catching weapons and bombs, perhaps they should be re-purposed from screening passengers to screening only crew. Of course, sometimes the screeners are drunk (in fact, on-duty federal security directors, too).

Coincidentally the aircraft scheduled to operate the flight was a legacy US Airways Embraer ERJ-190 registered to American Airlines. Yesterday a JetBlue ERJ-190 landed in Nassau without its nose gear down. This particular American ERJ-190 had the same experience last year while landing in Houston.

the crew reported they had done the alternate gear extension but weren’t sure whether all gear was down and requested to perform a low approach to have the gear inspected from the ground. …some of the gear was down, there was quite some drag. …Five airport vehicles were dispatched to the parallel taxiway to have a look at the aircraft during the low approach, subsequently tower reported he did not see any nose gear down, so did the airport vehicles.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that aircraft, with that co-pilot, if it happened again. So I’m glad this was noticed, and have to think that the aircraft’s pilot would have taken action independently as well.

What’s notable of course is how rare this is, which is precisely why it gets coverage. But it’s also important, because while most of the time the plane mostly flies itself (something that got Korean Air’s chairman in hot water for saying), when something goes wrong it’s important they have their wits about them.

(HT: Sam K. who asks, “Does this mean AA is back serving pre-departure drinks?”)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Maybe it’s time to stop ragging on the TSA and instead thank them for their service as front line protection. Do you realize what danger they place themselves in to protect us? Many of the pre-Security attack scenarios before Brussels were predicted to be in the TSA queue. TSA are literally placing their bodies on a line that attackers can go up to but not cross, and I don’t see the kind of heavy arms protection which would be needed to back them up anywhere – just a cop behind a desk sometimes.

  2. @Greg the reason the security queues are a target is precisely because of the TSA queues themselves. This is hardly novel. I wrote a magazine article 14 years ago on this.

    And of course if they’re in danger, so are we, and agency management are the ones who create and determine the depths of the lines through their screening procedures and staffing decisions.

  3. Fortunately TSA was paying attention and caught this guy. He could have easily gotten through and ended up flying that plane. There is no excuse for something like this to happen.

  4. Oh look, another anti-TSA rant from Gary. They do something good, and yet you still try to take a dump on them. As a reader let me just tell you your petty shtick is getting tiresome. I wish there was a way to unsubscribe from specific blogs in my boarding area RSS subscription, but oh well.

  5. @Mark I credit TSA in this case [just as I don’t disagree with them in the previous post]. However I don’t think you can assume the co-pilot would have flown. The pilot and crew of the aircraft might have had something to say about that.

  6. Love the blog, read it every day. It’s helped me a ton throughout the years! However, I just don’t see you give much credit to the TSA in this post. In this case, they do deserve it. Saying things like maybe they should be repurposed from screening passengers to only screening crew while writing this article (where they should be commended) is a slap in the face. I’m a crew member. I hate going through TSA like everyone else. Of course much can be improved in the TSA. But give these guys credit! – And don’t assume that the First Officer would have reported him. Although I sure as heck hope he would have, he also most likely met him in the hotel lobby, took the shuttle to the airport and spent much more time with him than the TSA agent that reported him. He shouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place.

  7. So TSA seems to only catch problem suspects that don’t even go through the nude-o-scopes. Pretty backwards.

  8. As a former Flight Attendant for United, let me tell you. It is impossible to convince a management that is not safe to fly.
    You have to go through so many people and latter.
    I did it before and I was written up by my supervisor, suspended and eventually fired.
    I refused to get on a flight because of a drunk pilot and I had a drunk management staff at LAX.
    Half of United Flight Attendants going to Sydney are on sleep medications to go on their break. When they wake up they are so groggy. It is a total breach of security.
    Next time you fly, just watch them as they practically stumble down the aisle from all the Ambien and Temezapam and all the free drugs they buy in Sydney.
    The TSA guy did the right thing.

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