LAS VEGAS – An armed AirTran Airways pilot was charged with operating an aircraft under the influence after a federal screener at McCarran International Airport smelled alcohol, authorities said Thursday.
Las Vegas police arrested Oliver Paul Reason Jr. (search), 37, in the cockpit of the AirTran plane shortly after he passed through an airport checkpoint Wednesday night, according to the Transportation Security Administration, police and the airline.
Orlando-based AirTran Holdings Inc. (search) issued a statement Thursday saying the airline followed its safety procedures to ensure the Atlanta-bound aircraft was held at the gate.
"The captain neither took command of the aircraft nor was the aircraft operated in any manner," the airline said. It apologized to the 60 passengers inconvenienced by the canceled flight and said it is cooperating with authorities.
The pilot has been suspended from his duties as a federal flight deck officer, which had allowed him to carry the firearm, the TSA (search) said.
If the Federal Aviation Administration (search) finds that the pilot was intoxicated on the job, he will be barred from flying, FAA spokesman Donn Walker said.
The pilot, who has worked for AirTran since 1994, has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation, airline spokesman Tad Hutcheson said. He added that police told airline officials that Reason had failed a Breathalyzer test.
Reason was being held Thursday at the Clark County jail. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
After the terrorist hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, pilots' unions lobbied for permission to carry guns in the cockpit. Federal lawmakers granted approval the next year.