By ALICE MCQUILLAN and JONATHAN DIENST - NBC New York
An apparently intoxicated American pilot was pulled from the cockpit of his Delta jet as he prepared to fly from Amsterdam to Newark Tuesday, officials said.
The 52-year-old captain from Woodbury, New Jersey blew a .023 percent blood alcohol level in a breath test, according to the National Police Corps in Amsterdam. That level is just above the legal limit in the Netherlands, which has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in Europe.
Delta Airlines said they suspended the captain and canceled Flight #35 between Amsterdam and Newark "out of concern that a crew member appeared to be unfit for duty."
An anonymous tip brought Dutch police to the Delta plane, officials said. After removing the captain, police fined him $900 and he was released, authorities said.
"Local Amsterdam authorities have met with the crew member to begin their investigation and we are cooperating fully, while simultaneously launching our own internal investigation," Delta said in a statement.
In America, the pilot might not have had a problem: Under FAA regulations the blood-alcohol limit for a pilot is .04 (twice that of Holland) -- but if a pilot tests between .02 and .039 they are tested again in 15 minutes, and if they still are in that range they are prohibited from flying for eight hours.
And a Delta spokesman said that pilots when they report for duty are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system at all according to company policy.
"Our alcohol policy is among the strictest in the industry and we have no tolerance for violations," said Delta spokesman Anthony Black.
The airline said the passengers on the canceled flight would have to wait until tomorrow to fly.
A spokesman for the airline pilots association did not calls for comment.