Pilot Alcohol Arrest: Kolbjorn J. Kristiansen Charged After Channeling Inner Denzel From 'Flight'

By Jason Van Hoven on April 10, 2013 9:57 AM EDT

Pilot Alcohol Arrest
Luckily none of the 53 passengers were aboard Kristiansen's flight when he was arrested, according to CNN. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The January alcohol arrest of a pilot who channeled his inner Denzel Washington from the movie "Flight" has finally resulted in charges.

Kolbjorn J. Kristiansen, the 48-year-old suspended American Eagle pilot suspected of being inebriated while making preflight checks at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport ahead of taking the controls was charged on Tuesday with attempting to operate an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol on Jan. 4 and two other gross-misdemeanor counts, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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The charges stemming from the alcohol arrest of the pilot, brought up in Hennepin County District Court this week, said that a preliminary breath test measured Kristiansen's alcohol content at 0.107 percent, with follow-up blood testing coming back at 0.09 percent, after his removal from the airliner's jetway before its departure for LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Both of those test results are more than double the New York State limit of 0.04 percent for commercial airline pilots.

If convicted, Kristiansen could face a maximum sentence of a $3,000 fine and/or up to one year in jail  on each count.

His attorney, Peter Wold, said that he hadn't seen the charges but they were expected.

"He never operated the aircraft," he said. "He never touched the controls. That's just the fact."

According to the criminal complaint in the pilot's alcohol arrest case, airport police officers smelled alcohol as they passed Kristiansen waiting to get on an elevator reserved for pilots and other flight crew in Terminal 1 at about 5:30 a.m.

The officers then went to Kristiansen's aircraft, where the first officer said that Kristiansen had just been in the cockpit reviewing preflight paperwork before heading down the ramp to inspect the airliner. They next met up with Kristiansen in the jetway and discovered that he smelled of liquor, had glassy and watery eyes and "was slow in responses to officer questions."

Kristiansen admitted drinking the night before and was preparing to take the controls for the 6:10 a.m. departure to New York.

He was finally given a breath test and arrested, which resulted in 53 passengers having their flight delayed 2 1/2 hours.

Kristiansen was suspended soon after his arrest pending the investigation, according to a spokesman for American Airlines, which uses American Eagle to operate shorter connecting flights. Federal rules bar pilots from flying within eight hours of consuming alcohol or if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or higher.

At the time of the pilot alcohol arrest, American Airlines released a statement reassuring passengers that it has strict measures in place to make sure pilots stay sober.

"American Eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first," said spokesman Matt Miller of American Airlines. "We are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation."

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