An American Airlines co-pilot, who was earlier detained on suspicion of being drunk, has been charged with operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol.

John Maguire was arrested for the misdemeanor at the Detroit Metro Airport on March 26 for "exhibiting signs of being drunk," said Michael Conway, an airport spokesman.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits pilots, with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.04 percent, from flying.

"Police responded with a field Breathalyzer and the co-pilot was indeed over the legal limits," Conway said.

Maguire was eventually moved to local jurisdiction for him to be examined using a machine called the Data Master.

Because of the arrest on Saturday morning, Flight 736 traveling from Detroit to Philadelphia, of which Maguire was co-pilot, was cancelled. Passengers were accommodated in other flights.

"Safety is our highest priority and we apologize to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans," said Laura Nedbal, a spokeswoman for American Airlines.

Nedbal added that the company considers the case a serious matter and that it is cooperating with local law enforcement and the FAA.

On the other hand, Conway said that these incidents are extremely rare.

The number of passengers of the flight was not counted as it did not take off, but it appears that the flight would have been carrying local students who are on their spring break.

From Bottle to Throttle: FAA Regulations

The FAA has published regulations on alcohol consumption and flying. Pilots are prohibited from drinking alcohol eight hours before operating an aircraft.

"Consider the effects of a hangover," the FAA writes. "Eight hours from 'bottle to throttle' does not mean you are in the best physical condition to fly, or that your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limits."

The agency also reminds pilots of the effects of alcohol consumption on the brain, especially when in flight, and these include impaired reaction time, reasoning, judgment, and memory.

"Alcohol decreases the ability of the brain to make use of oxygen. This adverse effect can be magnified as a result of simultaneous exposure to altitude, characterized by a decreased partial pressure of oxygen," the FAA added.

Photo: Cory W. Watts | Flickr

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