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April 10, 2019

Pilot removed from American Airlines jet about to fly from England to Philadelphia pleads guilty to drinking alcohol

David Copeland was escorted from the plane's cockpit after a security guard smelled booze on his breath

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American Airlines PHL Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

An American Airlines plane lands at the Philadelphia International Airport. American Airlines is adding new flights from Philadelphia International Airport to destinations in Florida this winter.

An American Airlines pilot who was suspected of being drunk and was removed from the cockpit of a jet, not long before it was about to fly from England to Philadelphia International Airport, pleaded guilty to a charge overseas on Wednesday.

The pilot, David Copeland, appeared in Manchester Magistrates' Court where he admitted to one count of performing an aviation function while impaired by alcohol. 

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The incident occurred Feb. 7. Copeland had been going through security and customs at Manchester Airport, when a security officer smelled alcohol on the pilot's breath and reported it to police, the Manchester Evening News reported. Copeland was in the cockpit of an American Airlines plane bound for Philadelphia International Airport when security removed him.

At the time, Copeland told officers he had consumed alcohol 12 hours before the flight but only had consumed coffee 20 minutes before going through security. 

Copeland reportedly blew a reading of 27 mg of alcohol. The legal limit for pilots is 20 mg per every 100 ml of blood.

Reports from the U.K. say Copeland is a Pennsylvania resident, however American Airlines would not confirm where he lived or if he remained employed by the airline when contacted Wednesday morning. 

American released the following statement on Copeland's case.

"Safety is our highest priority and we apologize to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans back on February 7. We continue to fully cooperate with local law enforcement on their investigation."

Copeland will be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on May 8.

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