Twice Legal Limit: Drunk Pilot Removed from Airplane in New York

by Madison Miller

When you board a plane, you’re putting all your trust (and your life) into a flying contraption and the people responsible for making it a smooth journey.

You would expect a functioning plane with no malfunctioning elements, an educated flight crew, connection to the team working on the ground, and good flying conditions. You would not, however, expect your pilot to be so drunk that he’s twice the legal limit.

James Clifton is a JetBlue pilot. The 52-year-old took a Breathalyzer test only minutes before takeoff this Wednesday.

According to the New York Post, the plane was leaving from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and was going to arrive in Fort Lauderdale. When he completed the test, cops found that he was four times the legal limit to fly. This is equivalent to having twice the legal limit in a car. The big difference is that when you’re flying a plane you are directly responsible for a whole crew and passengers expecting to get home safely.

“The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority. We adhere to all [Department of Transportation] rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero tolerance internal alcohol policy. We are aware of the incident that occurred this morning in Buffalo and are cooperating fully with law enforcement … are also conducting our own internal investigation,” a spokesperson for JetBlue said to the news outlet.

Not to mention, Clifton was visibly drunk when he went through security. That’s what led to Transportation Security Administration calling the cops to administer a Breathalizer to check his blood alcohol level.

Pilot Situation Leads to Delay, Investigations

Clifton ended up telling cops he did not have any drinks the morning of the flight. He did, however, admit to having seven to eight drinks the night before takeoff. A coworker was able to confirm Clifton seemed unfit to fly that plane. This person had joined Clifton for dinner the night before. When a shuttle arrived to take them to work, Clifton didn’t show up and wasn’t answering his phone. He ended up taking an Uber to work instead.

All in all, his reported blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent. In order to fly, pilots have a  0.04-percent limit placed on them in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration jurisdiction.

In addition to having a drunk pilot, people on board the plane likely weren’t happy for a number of reasons. For starters, the flight ended up delayed for four hours and 10 minutes, according to It was supposed to take off at 6:15 a.m., but instead landed in Florida at 1:10 p.m. far behind schedule.

Reportedly, the pilot is now fired and the incident is going over to the federal authorities who will handle the case now. He does not have local violation charges.