SALT LAKE CITY – A Southwest Airlines co-pilot was arrested minutes before takeoff Sunday, after a security screener reported that his breath smelled of alcohol, authorities said.
Carl Fulton, 41, of Fort Worth, Texas, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a federal offense.
A Transportation Security Agency screener reported to supervisors that the co-pilot's breath smelled of alcohol when he went through a security screening line, FBI spokesman Patrick Kiernan said.
Police administered a breathalyzer test, but the results were not being released Sunday, Kiernan said.
The Boeing 737 was scheduled to depart Salt Lake City International Airport with 123 passengers, traveling first to Phoenix and then to Albuquerque, N.M. It left 15 minutes late after Fulton was replaced.
The U.S. attorney's office was expected to file charges Monday, Kiernan said. The offense carries a penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison and fines.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Paula Berg confirmed the arrest and said Southwest has launched an internal investigation.
Fulton, who is based in Dallas, has worked for Southwest for two years and has no prior offenses. He is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, Berg said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials will conduct an investigation.