A Southwest Airlines co-pilot arrested for allegedly drinking the night before a morning flight is out of jail.
Authorities arrested 1st Officer Carl Fulton, of Fort Worth, in Salt Lake City just minutes before his flight Sunday to Phoenix after a screener said he smelled alcohol on the pilot's breath.
Airport screeners notified police minutes before his Sunday morning takeoff. Investigators pulled Fulton out of the cockpit and arrested him.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Fulton later admitted to drinking three beers and a vodka by 10 p.m. Saturday. Prosecutors said he blew a .039 an hour after his arrest. The federal standard for pilots is .04.
Prosecutors said Fulton tested just below the allowable limit on a Breathalyzer test, but police still charged him with being under the influence.
"I am a frequent flyer and it baffles me that someone with the proclivity to do better would do the worst thing in the world, so he should be fired," traveler Keith Crow said.
"It just brings the human flaw to it, we are all human and we can make mistakes and they can do it just as well," traveler Chris Bolan said.
Southwest Airlines has placed Fulton on leave. Airline executives are commending the screeners, whose job it is to avert disaster.
"If there's a problem, we want to know about it. We take the safety of our employees and our customer and the aircraft very seriously," Southwest Airlines spokesman Ed Stewart said.
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A TSA screener reported that the co-pilot's breath smelled of alcohol when he went through a security screening line.
After a three-hour delay, the jet with 21 passengers aboard took off for Salt Lake City with another captain at the controls.
The pilots were arrested before the America West jetliner took off but after it had pushed away from the gate at Miami Int'l Airport in 2002.
The crew member was released on bail pending the results of tests and was due to report to a Manchester police station Tuesday.