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American Eagle pilot charged with attempting to fly while intoxicated

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A pilot has been charged with being under the influence of alcohol while getting ready to fly an American Eagle plane from Minneapolis to New York City in January, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said on Tuesday.

Kolbjorn Kristiansen had been doing pre-flight checks ahead of a morning flight to New York when airport police took him into custody and administered a breath test, which he failed.

Witnesses said they had smelled alcohol when they passed Kristiansen in an airport terminal. His arrest happened before passengers boarded the flight on American Eagle, a regional carrier for AMR Corp's American Airlines.

Kristiansen was charged with three gross misdemeanors in state court after blood tests showed he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.09 percent, more than twice the legal limit for a pilot in the state, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.

He was charged with operating or attempting to operate an aircraft under the influence of alcohol, operating or attempting to operate an aircraft with alcohol content of 0.04 or more and operating or attempting to operate an aircraft with alcohol content at 0.04 or more within two hours of a flight, he said.

The threshold for pilots in Minnesota is 0.04, as it is under Federal Aviation Administration rules, or about half what it would be for drivers of automobiles. The initial breath test had returned a 0.107 concentration.

Kristiansen, who is from Raleigh, North Carolina, was released on his own recognizance in January and is not flying.

His attorney, Peter Wold, said Tuesday he had seen a copy of the complaint and questioned the charges.

"He did nothing to attempt to fly other than being near that aircraft," Wold said in a telephone interview. "He didn't operate any controls. He didn't accept any directions. He didn't contact the control tower. I don't understand how they think he attempted to fly an aircraft."

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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