Sun Country Airlines Pilot Accused of Having Alcohol in System

A Sun Country Airlines pilot has been suspended without pay after allegedly having alcohol in his system when he showed up for a flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco and back.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Sun Country Airlines pilot has been suspended without pay after allegedly having alcohol in his system when he showed up for a flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco and back.

The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating.

Pilot Michael Schuster, 39, of St. Augustine Beach, Fla., was stopped about 7 p.m. last Friday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after a Transportation Security Administration screener noticed his bloodshot eyes and smelled alcohol on his breath, Sun Country Chief Executive Shaun Nugent said Thursday.

A breath test showed Schuster's blood-alcohol level was 0.041 percent, Nugent said.

Federal regulations prohibit anyone from operating or trying to operate a plane within eight hours of consuming alcohol, while under the influence of alcohol or with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater.

''Our policy is 0.000 (blood alcohol),'' Nugent said. ''He was suspended consistent with our zero-tolerance policy.''

According to the police report, Schuster was not arrested because he was not operating a plane, but Sun Country officials were called.

Nugent said Schuster was given a second breathalyzer test by Sun Country at 9:15 p.m. Friday and registered no blood-alcohol content. He has no previous incidents on his record, Nugent said.

Schuster was to have been the co-pilot on Flight No. 397 that was scheduled to depart for San Francisco at 8:35 p.m., Nugent said. He was then scheduled to turn around and fly the plane back to the Twin Cities. Nugent said another pilot was called to replace Schuster.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said Schuster could lose his pilot's license if an investigation concludes he broke federal regulations.

''If there is a violation, it depends on what was found,'' Cory said. ''It could range from no action if the allegations prove false, all the way up to the suspension of the individuals certificate (to fly).''

Nugent said Sun Country will decide what action to take after receiving the results of the FAA investigation.

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