Ex-American Eagle pilot accused of having alcohol in system before flight try pleads guilty

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A former American Eagle pilot pleaded guilty Friday to having alcohol in his system as he prepared to fly a plane from Minneapolis to New York City last year.

Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, 49, pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to attempting to operate an aircraft within two hours of having a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher, a gross misdemeanor. Three similar counts — two gross misdemeanors and a misdemeanor — were dismissed.

Kristiansen was sentenced to a year in jail with 305 of those days stayed, WCCO-TV reported. He also must complete 240 hours of community service and pay a $3,000 fine.

Kristiansen, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Jan. 4, 2013, after airport police and a Transportation Security Administration officer said they smelled alcohol as they walked past a group of four pilots around 5:30 a.m. Authorities said a preliminary test revealed Kristiansen's blood-alcohol content was 0.107 percent, more than double the legal limit for pilots.

According to a criminal complaint, two officers approached Kristiansen and noted he had "glassy and watery eyes and was slow in responses to officer questions." The complaint said Kristiansen admitted he consumed alcohol the night before and was planning to fly.

After the preliminary test, a subsequent blood test revealed Kristiansen's blood-alcohol level was 0.09 percent. Pilots are prohibited from flying if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher, half the level allowed for motorists.

Kristiansen's attorney, Peter Wold, told The Associated Press his client never touched the controls or operated the plane.

As part of the sentence, Kristiansen will spend this weekend in the Hennepin County Workhouse, Wold said.

"He wants to move on. He's been totally rehabilitated. He's been sober, gone through treatment. He's taken the steps he can to take responsibility and get back with the airline," Wold said Friday.

American Airlines uses American Eagle to operate shorter connecting flights. American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said Friday that Kristiansen was suspended and later fired.