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Jet Blue pilot who was removed from cockpit told officials he'd had 7 or 8 drinks

The pilot was removed from a plane’s cockpit in Buffalo after a TSA officer said he appeared “impaired” while passing through security, authorities said.
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A Jet Blue pilot was removed from a plane's cockpit in Buffalo on Wednesday morning after a Transportation Security Administration officer told authorities that he appeared "impaired" as he passed through security, authorities said.

The pilot, James Clifton, 52, was taken into custody after he registered a blood-alcohol level of .17, a Niagara Frontier TSA spokeswoman said.

Clifton told authorities he'd had seven to eight drinks before he got on the aircraft, which was bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said the spokeswoman, Helen Tederous.

Clifton submitted to the test after he told police he needed to get his gun from the plane's cockpit, Tederous said.

Pilots are permitted to carry firearms on planes if they're certified to do so. Clifton's status wasn't immediately clear.

Tederous said Clifton, of Orlando, Florida, may face federal charges. It wasn't immediately clear whether he has a lawyer.

In a statement, Jet Blue said it was aware of the incident and fully cooperating with law enforcement. Clifton was removed from his duties while the airline conducts an internal inquiry, the company said.

"We adhere to all DOT rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero-tolerance internal alcohol policy," the statement added, referring to the Department of Transportation.

Federal regulations bar pilots from drinking while on-duty within eight hours of flying or if their blood alcohol level is greater than .04.