TODAY | January 05, 2013
>>> a pilot in minnesota who was preparing to fly a commercial jet halfway across the country was arrested friday morning after failing a preliminary breathalyzer test. we have this report.
>> reporter: it was early friday morning in minneapolis. passengers were waiting to board american eagle flight 4590 bound for new york. the police boarded first, heading straight to the cockpit to find the pilot. according to the arrest report, officers and a tsa worker smelled alcohol as they passed by 48-year-old colburn christiansen who was waiting by the elevator. police confronted the pilot as he was doing preflight checks. conducted a breathalyzer test, and arrested him of being under the influence of alcohol. it's not the first time we've seen pilots in trouble for substance abuse . in 2002 , two americawest pilots drank 14 beers between them in a bar hours before takeoff. even hit the big screen as part of the recent denzel washington film "flight."
>> you had alcohol in your system.
>> reporter: federal aviation regulation 91-17, commonly known as the bottle to throttle rule, says no person may operate or attempt to operate an aircraft within eight hours of having consumed alcohol. while under the influence of alcohol or with a blood alcohol content of .04 or greater. most major airlines are even tougher on their pilots, requiring a 12-hour period between consumption of alcohol and flying. in friday's case, american airlines , the parent company of american eagle , issued a statement saying, " american eagle has a well-established substance abuse policy that is designed to put the safety of our customers and employees first. we are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full internal investigation. the pilot will be withheld from service pending the outcome of the investigation." charges are pending against christiansen, who was released on his own recognizance. while the passengers landed safely in new york, two hours after their scheduled takeoff. for "today," diana alvear, nbc news, los angeles .